Colorado Rafting Season Starts Amidst COVID-19

Ryan Flynn | RaftRaft
American River, california
Rafting on the American River. Credit:

“All any of us can do is to look at what the health orders are and see if that is something you want to go with or not. If you decide it is not a good idea to go out based on the health order, then don’t. If you look at the health order and say time to go out there and have some fun, then go for it.”

– Bruce Becker, Owner of Geo Tours.

The days in Colorado are getting longer and hotter as we approach the middle of summer. With this, the high alpine regions are continuing to see less snow with each passing day. It is in this time, roughly May through mid-July, that rafting companies in Colorado see the bulk of their business. This year is different though due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Rafting commercially under the “safer-at-home” order pushed back commercial trips due to fears that the activity could spread the virus.

Companies on the Colorado River, Arkansas, and Clear Creek could only sit and wait to see if their county’s variances would allow the season to commence. For Clear Creek, the county’s variance opened the season in early June allowing companies to commercially raft under strict social distancing guidelines. Raft companies in the area are now frantically trying to book trips to make the most of a shortened season.

Bruce Becker, the owner of Geo Tours, a rafting outfitter based out of Morrison, Colorado said, “there has been a lot of pent up demand…the inquiries have been as good as any year.” The big question being will there be enough water left to have a successful season?

Reopening of Rafting in Colorado
Commercial Rafting on Clear Creek is Reopened. Credit: Cory Lucek @imagesbycory

Social distancing measures for raft companies operating Clear Creek include a maximum 50% van capacity, required masks when not in the raft, temperature checks, and extra cleaning of equipment after each trip. This cuts down on the number of rafts per van and makes it more expensive per raft for companies to put out each day. With all that being said, companies are getting on the water and making the most of a tough situation.

Current snowpack conditions show that while most of the state is seeing drastic snowmelt, some areas will likely continue to have good water for the coming weeks. Clear Creek, within the South Platte region and the Arkansas, still has a strong snowpack. It is unclear how fast the snow will melt, but rafting companies are hoping that it takes longer than normal with a shortened season. Bruce Becker commented that “Snowpack will be an issue this year. The southern part of the state is not looking great and rivers along and north of I-70 are faring much better.”

colorado, snowpack
Current Colorado snowpack. Credit: NOAA

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