Boating regulations in store for Glenwood Canyon |

Boating regulations in store for Glenwood Canyon

Cliff Thompson

And plenty of comment is expected, beginning in February. A mix of more than 80,000 private and public boaters are overwhelming limited facilities in Glenwood Canyon on busy weekends, says Eagle District Ranger Cathy Kahlow.

That stretch of the Colorado River is popular because of its rapids. More importantly, it has a right to 1,400 cubic feet per second of water at the Shoshone Hydroelectric Dam, ensuring there will be water for boaters.

“We’ve got too many people in too small a space,” she said. “Weekends are normally chaotic.”

Exchanges between Forest Service river rangers and some private boaters at the ramps have forced at least one ranger to wear a referee’s whistle. The rangers are funded by the permit fees paid by commercial boaters.

The problem is how much time it takes to launch a watercraft and to shuttle a vehicle. For commercial outfits, it’s a matter of minutes. For private users, however, it sometimes can take half an hour – or even more.

The focus of the regulations will be on private boaters. Commercial rafting companies already operate under permits that spells out how they operate.

Last year, 73,000 people floated through the rapids below Shoshone Dam and the Grizzly Creek sections of the Colorado River. Private boaters and rafters totalled just 5,000, Kahlow said, and while they use the facilities for free, they may be causing the most problems.

“We’ll look at limiting peak-period use and redistributing commercial use,” Kahlow said. “One option would be to provide a launch window where private boaters have to use the facilities by a certain time.”

Also guiding the deliberations is the potential economic impact on nearby towns like Glenwood Springs, which relies heavily on river rafting to draw tourists.

“This isn’t going to be a cure for everything; it’s just a way to space out use during the day and during the busy season,” she said. “We often hear from people who have louder voices than others. We want to hear from all the different kinds of users.”

The Forest Service also will be exploring how to privatize some of the elements of the administration and operation of the launch and parking areas, Kahlow said.

For more information about the public meetings call 328-6388.

Glenwood Canyon survey

Based on 359 respondents completed during 12 different survey periods:

– 63.5 percent of river users boated on weekends, 36.5 percent on weekdays.

– 49.7 percent were on a commercial raft trip.

– 61.8 percent of all boaters used rafts; 27.9 percent used kayaks and 10.3 percent used other craft.

– 61 percent of rafters launched at Shoshone; 26.6 percent launched at Grizzly Creek; and 12 percent launched elsewhere.

– Rafts constituted 30 percent of the craft on the river, kayaks 51.1 percent, and fishing boats and other craft 13.9 percent.

– The most popular stretch of the river was from Shoshone Dam to Grizzly Creek, with 69 percent of private boaters and 84.2 percent of commercial boaters using it.

Support Local Journalism