Readying the rivers in Eagle County |

Readying the rivers in Eagle County

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyDarryl and Cole Bangert, of Sage Outdoor Adventures, work on cutting and removing downed trees from the Eagle River earlier this week. Sage is one of many local rafting companies that clears debris from local rivers around this time each year.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Local outdoor recreation companies are already thinking about the next recreation season less than one week after Vail Mountain closed its skiing and snowboarding slopes for the 2010-11 winter season.

Cole Bangert, the operations manager at Sage Outdoor Adventures, said the company has been clearing trees out of the Eagle River and Gore Creek for the past several days in preparation for rafting season.

“We put our cold weather dry suit gear on and go down there with a chainsaw,” Bangert said. “We don’t actually take trees out of the river, we just cut them into smaller pieces so they flush downstream.”

The river sports community is pretty tight-knit around here. They all tend to help each other out and alert each other about any dangers along local waterways, Bangert said.

Those dangers typically come in the form of downed trees. As snow melts and the river starts moving again, more debris can appear and present hazards for those looking to run the river on rafts or kayaks. When the water is low and relatively calm in late April and early May, that’s the time when many local companies start keeping their eyes open for potential hazards.

Bangert said Sage Outdoor Adventures has cut up about seven trees in the river so far, and they’ve identified another one down by the Westin in Avon that needs to be removed.

Nova Guides hasn’t started removing debris just yet as that company is still doing snowmobiling tours, but some of the other companies in the valley have cleanups planned just about daily.

Timberline Tours will be looking for debris along the Eagle River next week when it’s still early enough in the season to get into the river safely to remove debris, said Lisa Reeder, manager and owner at Timberline Tours.

“When the water goes up, a lot of things move and shift around,” Reeder said.

Reeder said word of mouth often spreads about river hazards. Everyone from residents along the river to local fire departments try to alert each other when there’s something dangerous in the river.

Cory Glackin, who owns Alpine Quest Sports in Edwards with her husband, Sean, said there’s a great website called Mountain Buzz that has a forum about safety along regional rivers.

“A lot of people look on there every day,” Glackin said. “People post on there a lot, especially in the beginning of the year. … If we go out (on the river) and see something that is an obstacle in the river that is definitely a safety issue, we post it on (Mountain Buzz).”

Last June, for example, Mountain Buzz user jmrider19 posted a concern about a log in the lower Eagle River at the Eagle Springs Golf Course vehicle bridge.

“There is a large pine tree pinned between the first and second bridge pylons from left to right,” wrote jmrider19. “There are several sharp branches sticking out that could puncture a raft. Can still run through the third span to the right of the pinned tree.”

Glackin said a lot of local kayakers and rafters will call each other and talk about hazards, and depending on where the debris is along the river, they’ll try to work together to remove it.

“We try to make sure we’re all aware of that stuff,” Glackin said.

Lakota Guides, which is moving into a new boat house in Edwards, said there are definitely a few logs in the river that the company plans to clean up along with Timberline Tours. Lakota co-owner John Seelig said the collaboration among local companies and local boaters is a “nice service we provide that also helps us just make sure the rivers are as safe as possible.”

Seelig said logs that go straight across the river totally blocking it are called strainers and need to be removed.

“We’ll take those down, cut them and pull them out of the river,” he said.

Sometimes it’s necessary to wait for the waters to rise a bit, though, and let the debris shift out of the way, Seelig said.

“Sometimes it might take care of itself,” Seelig said.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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