By ANDREW WINEKE (Colorado Springs) The Gazette
edited by Whitewater Times
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—Justin Smith, president of the Pikes Peak Whitewater Club, doesn't wait for high water to head to the river.
He took his first whitewater kayak trip of 2009 in February and has been hitting rivers across the state several times a week ever since.
"I've been out on Pine Creek, Numbers, the Royal Gorge," Smith said, naming a string of expert-level Class IV and V whitewater runs. "I've been on Gore about four times. I've been out to Cross Mountain twice. I've been up to Elevenmile a few times."
Still, he said, something changes when Mother Nature and the state's water managers jointly decide it's time to open the taps.
"As the flows start coming up, it's going to be like, 'Oh we've got to go hit this, oh we've got to go hit that,'" Smith said.
In late April, Colorado's mountains got the biggest snowstorm of the year. Last week, that snow began trickling down the peaks, cascading through the state's rivers. The deluge will continue through June, then gradually taper off through July and August.
"I think it's going to be an exceptional year," said owner of Raftecho, Raftecho.com outfitters for Colorado Whitewater Rafting. "Water levels are going to be spectacular."
By "spectacular," he doesn't mean the water will be as high as last year, when a near-record snowpack produced the biggest water the Arkansas has seen in more than a decade. Last year's high water was, in some cases, too much of a good thing, since it led to some voluntary safety closures of the Royal Gorge near Canon City and may have scared away less-intrepid rafters and kayakers.
"We're right in the pocket where we have good flows, but not too good of flows," said Stew Pappenfort, senior ranger for the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. "The season's looking good for Colorado Whitewater Rafting."