Tourism tied to the Colorado River has a huge economic impact for Glenwood Springs and other mountain towns. Glenwood has a trick up its sleeve as it is down stream from the Shoshone Hydro Electric Power Plant. That has one of the oldest water rights on this stretch of river, that means that even in dry times, enough water must be kept in the river to run through its power generating turbines. That benefits the rafters too, like Ken Murphy who has operated a rafting business on this stretch of the Colorado River for almost 20 years.
“Economically it’s millions and millions of dollars between employment, sales tax, visitors to the community, both commercial boaters keeping companies like mine running, and then the private industry in the sense of retail stores. The rafting industry or the water industry is huge for our community.”
Murphy says that climate change is extending the rafting season but is driving concerns about water availability. “We survive on snow pack so the snow is just as important, although it extends our season we are definitely paying attention to climate change and are concerned, especially with the early season. If we don’t have the snow we could be into a drought and if we’re into a drought then we don’t have control of the water flows here.”
The Colorado River Outfitters Association says that in 2016, people coming to raft in Colorado spent more than $70 million, with a wider economic impact of nearly $180 million in the state’s riverside communities.
KGNU News Director Maeve Conran is on the Colorado River this week meeting people impacted by changes in water flows due to water diversions to the Front Range and climate change. We feature these stories in the series Dispatches From The River.