SALT LAKE CITY, UT, April 25, 2023 – The staff at Holiday River Expeditions can’t stop smiling.
This year’s record-breaking snowpack promises to provide water-filled river rafting adventures long into the 2023 season. (The snowpack in the Colorado River watershed was 154.4 percent (and still amassing) of the April 23 average.)
This is a welcome bonus to a rafting company that has seen steady growth over the past three years. This growth has occurred despite news of the pervasive drought challenging river systems in the Southwest and even though sustained good water levels throughout the summer have been uncommon.
Here’s what Holiday River Expeditions’ John Wood, co-owner and President, and Tim Gaylord, Director of Operations, forecast in the following Q&A. They have plunged into snowpack statistics and what the numbers mean for the upcoming rafting season.
Q. What are the ramifications of high water from the spring run-off of an exceptionally deep winter snowpack?
A: We’re just now beginning to hear from some guests about their high-water concerns. So far there have been a few cancellations and date rescheduling requests (mostly on the free-flowing Yampa River), and we might be moving a few folks from early to later season departures if it is their desire. The important thing is to listen, be upfront and honest letting the guest make the decision.
Q: What do you hear from other rafting companies? Are bookings up for 2023 in anticipation of an epic flow this season?
A: High water can be a bit of a mixed bag as far as bookings go. Some people are excited while others are a bit nervous. We have heard from some colleagues that their bookings are a bit off from the past couple of years; but we are not really sure that has anything to do with water levels. Perhaps the dip has more to do with the economic slowdown, increased travel related costs and Covid hangover.
Q: What’s your best guess for when river levels will begin to rise dramatically?
A: The above-normal temperatures of mid April sent the runoff to an early start. This was just an early spike. We expect the real runoff to begin in earnest in mid May.
Q: What is the predicted “window” for peak flow?
A: Out of 26 weeks of runnable water, two to three weeks will see epic high water this year. But it’s impossible to pin point when. This phenomenon is weather dependent. Normal peak flows on most of our river sections occur from the third week of May to the middle of June.
Q: How do Holiday River Expeditions’ guides feel about the upcoming season?
A: The trip leaders, guides, support staff and managers are all very excited to experience a high-water year like this one. This is what we wait for, what we’ve been trained for and what keeps most of us coming back season after season. We’re on track to have similar levels to the biggest years on record! But the real beauty of these big snowpacks and large runoffs is how long they will last into the summer.
Q. How will it benefit the entire season?
A. Our July, August and September trips will have plenty of water to keep everyone happy! The upshot is that high water can actually make some rapids less complicated when it comes to rowing and technical maneuvering. The fun rapids and roller coaster waves are easier on the guides. Rafts are moving more swiftly. Speed translates to more beach time, longer time for hikes and games and more time in camp (i.e. Guests can grab an extra half-hour of sleep in the morning).
Q: Have you heard from any whitewater fanatics who want to go during peak runoff? How do you handle their bookings not knowing exactly when that will be or fall?
A: Now that the word is seeping out we are hearing from folks who are “in the know”. A number of veteran Holiday River Expeditions’ alumni are coming back to experience the high water. They are quite excited about it. We have also heard from some long-time regular guests who are watching the snowpack and signing up for those prime dates on the Yampa and Cataract Canyon.
Q: What are the main points of concern regarding news reports of high-water conditions and how do you respond?
A: When it comes to high water, the media likes to hype the perceived “danger” and any river incidents that may occur. Often, they miss the distinction of professional, commercially operated vs privately run trips (where the lion’s share of mishaps and incidents usually occur). Inevitably our audience is impacted. We respond by assuring guests we are thoroughly trained for these conditions.
Q: How do you respond to concerns?
A: The prospect of big rapids has always been part of the experience we sell. Our response is careful, calculated and informed. Everyone must remember that things can and do happen on a wilderness river trip. Preparation and professionalism are key. We spend serious time getting and being ready for our guests. Once high-water weeks are determined, we put our sales team into full action providing more information to guests who are prescreened for these adventures. For example, we recommend wearing wet suits on stretches of the Colorado and Yampa Rivers; we advise that paddle boats and kayaks are not offered during highest water; we engage guests in pre-trip safety talks that include swimming and swift water rescue guidelines.
Q: What sets Holiday River Expeditions’ rafting adventures apart from most of its competitors?
A: We are the only rafting outfitter that literally goes with the flow exclusively on all trips by running these rivers by oar-power only, without motorized rafts or motorized support. Oar power is the most natural way to experience the river and the absence of motors makes high water trips as exciting as it gets.
Q: What are Holiday River Expeditions’ recommended high-water trips?
- Yampa River: https://www.bikeraft.com/colorado-river-rafting/yampa-river/
- Green River/Desolation Canyon: https://www.bikeraft.com/utah-river-rafting/desolation-canyon/
- Colorado River/Westwater Canyon: https://www.bikeraft.com/colorado-river-rafting/westwater-canyon-rafting/
- Colorado River/Cataract Canyon: https://www.bikeraft.com/utah-river-rafting/cataract-canyon/