River enthusiasts adjust in low runoff years
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Warm, sunny days have those who love to spend their summers on the river wondering how the local river recreation season is going to shape up this year.While some are still in winter mode, others have already started running the rivers on kayaks and standup paddleboards.Gypsum resident Ken Hoeve, a host on TV 8 who kayaks and paddleboards competitively, has been out on the Colorado River about four days a week this month. His philosophy is that you need to get out on the water sooner than later this season.”We’re definitely below average,” Hoeve said of the current snowpack, which is what keeps the rivers flowing – or trickling – throughout the summer.Hoeve said the Eagle River is already good enough to paddle, but he’s not sure how long it will last. It’s odd seeing the rivers free of ice and moving like they are now for this time of year. Hoeve said even Dowd Chute looks like it’s ready to paddle.”I’ve definitely never seen the rivers like they are right now this time of year,” Hoeve said. Fishing has kicked into gear this past month, too. While you can fish the rivers year-round, the fishing right now has been great, said Alex Rachowicz, an owner at Minturn Anglers. When the water warms up, there’s more food in the water for the fish, which means the fish are more active, he said. In mid-April or so, however, the river will be moving too quickly and churning up too much dirt for good fishing.June and July should be good for fishing, Rachowicz said, but the current snowpack conditions and a lack of moisture does cause concern for August. “It’s going to hurt in August if we don’t start getting some rain or snow or something,” he said. The rafting companies hope for the same, although most companies simply move to the dam-controlled rivers like the Arkansas and the Colorado. Darryl Bangert, owner of Sage Outdoor Adventures, said there are guaranteed flows, or at least semi-guaranteed, on those rivers into August.”The Colorado River is going to have fine water,” he said. “Without dams, we all wouldn’t be in business. I’ve come to accept that fact.”Dams are bittersweet for river lovers, and this year they’re definitely just sweet.”As much as a lot of us hate dams, the dams are definitely going to help us this year by releasing water,” Hoeve said. “When it’s not a huge local season, you’ll find more people going to Shoshone and Grizzly.”Hoeve also thinks it will be a good Gore Canyon season. Last year, the water through Gore Canyon, which is on the upper Colorado River, was “too huge” to run it. “We’ll definitely be able to get up there,” Hoeve said. “Gore Canyon might become a staple this summer to get up there.”And Bangert thinks that rafting companies will quickly move from the Eagle River to the dam-controlled rivers.”You just go where the water is – there’s always water somewhere,” he said. “The fact that we have low snow or high snow, it’s just how we deal with it in our own minds. … We’ll have terrific boating (on the Eagle River and Gore Creek), but maybe we won’t have it as long.”Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.