Before peak runoff has even begun, high water levels are prompting warnings for fishers and rafters as well as leading to the postponement of Pueblo’s annual river surfing festival.
img: The Arkansas river in Pueblo is running high due to snow melt. Advisories are in place for 3 sections of the river.
Just ahead of peak runoff, rivers are running high throughout the state of Colorado causing concern for the safety of residents engaging in rafting, tubing and fishing.
Colorado officials are issuing warnings for engaging in water activities across the state. Commercial rafting companies are now avoiding three sections of the Arkansas River after high water level advisories were issued earlier this week. Advisories are in place for two river sections between Granite and Buena Vista and the third advisory is for the river segment running through the Royal Gorge running west of Canyon City.
According to Amanda Cesar, the recreation supervisor with Pueblo Parks and Recreation, the Arkansas River is currently running at about 4,500 cubic feet per second (CFS). The average levels for this time of year are 2,000 to 3,000 CFS.
“It’s completely underwater,” said Cesar. “You don’t see the shoreline very much here at the water park, you don’t see the rock outcropping which you normally can see this time of year.”
All of this comes a week before peak runoff has even begun, meaning that the water levels are only expected to rise in the coming weeks.
“They’re predicting [true runoff] probably next week which will last for a couple of weeks,” said Cesar. “We’re predicting it will stay high through the end of the month and into July.”
As a result of the extreme water levels, Pueblo has postponed their annual river surfing festival. The festival, which was originally scheduled for June 22, has been moved to July 20 when they predict water levels to decrease to 2,000 CFS.
Cesar claims that the current water levels make river surfing extremely difficult and even dangerous.
“You just basically wash down the river,” said Cesar.
Regardless of the threat, many are still traveling to rivers and creeks across Colorado with the intention of engaging in various water activities. For those people, Cesar insists that carefulness is vital.
“Just be extremely cautious,” said Cesar. “I know we are meeting with our fire departments, our local state park rangers, our dive rescue teams and we are evaluating the river every day.”
In recent years, river surfing has become a big deal in Colorado and Pueblo is the epicenter for the sport. KGNU will have a report on river surfing coming up in July ahead of the postponed Pueblo festival.