Rafting outfitters feeling effects of drought, low water levels in Colorado

Some customers getting partial refunds
Posted at 7:43 PM, Jul 20, 2018

IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The drought and low water levels are taking a toll on Colorado's rafting industry.

David Costlow of the Colorado River Outfitters Association said water levels have dropped dramatically on Clear Creek, so the season on that waterway may end August 1.

"If we get monsoon rains, that could change," he said.

Several outfitters in Idaho Springs are giving partial refunds to customers who purchased “advanced” or “intermediate” trips, ahead of time, when water levels were higher.

“It’s tough for us to predict,” said Alan Blado, owner of Liquid Descent Rafting, “so we’re as forthright as we can be with people, letting them know about the conditions.”

Blado told Denver7 that it’s been a wonderful summer on Clear Creek and on the Colorado River.

He said many customers are first time rafters who don’t know what to expect.

Great Expectations

“It’s okay if we get stuck on the rocks,” said a chuckling Haley Singleton, who is on vacation from Chicago, “as long as we make it out alive.”

Camryn Plumbo said she was looking forward to the excursion.

“I think it’s going to be really bumpy and fun,” the youngster said.

Making Memories

Blado told Denver7 that even with low water, he and his crews strive to make the trips memorable.

On one excursion, one of the rafts pulled off to the side of the creek, allowing one of the more experienced rafters to jump into the water.

Justin Chang said the low water provided its own excitement.

“There were a few times where we got stuck,” he said. “My (raft) and the three other (rafts) on our tour used each other as battering rams to get us off the sharp rocks.”

He said it was “pretty cool.”

“We all had to brace ourselves, and a couple of times, we almost fell off the raft, but it was fun.”


Blado said once the season ends on Clear Creek, they’ll encourage customers to drive up to Kremmling, where they have another location along the Colorado River.

“Because there are reservoirs upstream that store some of the run-off, we have flow throughout the summer that is guaranteed.”

He said that stretch of the Colorado has one of the best whitewater runs in the country.

“Gore Canyon is amazing,” he said. “It shines like a diamond in a drought year like this.”

Blado said the drought is affecting the bottom line, but he’s not overly worried about it.

“That’s part of being in this business,” he said. “We take it in stride. I still, when I wake up every morning, feel so fortunate and blessed to take people rafting for a living.”

“On a daily basis,” he added, “we’re taking families and corporate groups and groups of friends, and are having fun with them and are getting paid to do it, so that makes it a little easier to deal with a year like this. You just have to concentrate on the positives and realize how lucky we are to take people rafting.”

Costlow said the Colorado River Outfitters Association keeps track of how many trips are taken each year on Colorado’s rivers, but he said the figures for 2018 won’t be available until this fall.