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After multiple rescues on Poudre River, safety crews warning recreators to be safe

Poudre River at Whitewater Park in Fort Collins
Posted at 4:22 PM, May 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-29 19:16:47-04

NORTHERN COLORADO -- In the past week, crews have rescued nearly a dozen people from Poudre River. Now, authorities are focused on reminding people to be safe.

"While [the river is] your friend, and it's something that's going to be fun, it could also be your worst enemy," Darren Jaques, a battalion chief with Windsor Severance Fire Rescue, said Saturday.

His team made its most recent rescue on Monday.

"We rescued an overturned canoer who had gone over a low-head dam and was caught up in some debris under the dam," Jaques said.

The incident could've turned deadly because Jaques says the canoer's feet were stuck in debris, and they weren't wearing a life jacket.

"Whether you're experienced or inexperienced, definitely have a life jacket. The water is relentless. It never gets tired and it can overcome even the most experienced of swimmers," he said.

Upstream at Whitewater Park in Fort Collins, debris beneath a railroad trestle caused hazardous conditions, forcing the Poudre Fire Authority to make eight rescues in under 24 hours.

"With all the fires we've been having up here, there’s going to be a lot of debris from all the dead trees and everything, especially at 3,000 cubic feet per second," Phil, a river surfer said.

Neither he nor Ryan Nelson, a fellow river surfer, mess around with safety on the water.

"I still wear my trusty bike helmet, life jacket, make sure I float downstream feet first, that kind of stuff," Ryan said.

Still, Phil says it's always best to check your surroundings before getting in the water.

"You can see where that big strainer was right up here. You can see it from the road. [The kayakers] shouldn't have been going through there anyway," he said.

It's all a good reminder as the water continues to rise and the snowpack begins to melt.

"[The] water will be a lot quicker," Jaques said. "The hazards that we noticed before will become hidden."