If river runners had their say, every year would be like this year. The flow has been ideal – not too high and not too low.
And, consensus is, it should remain this way until the snowpack melts, which, judging from the white-cap mountains, won’t be for some time yet.Finding a spot to ski on the 4th of July, which has become a tradition with many skiers, was not hard this past weekend. Utah canyons are dotted with large snow fields.
And, even though the Colorado drainage didn’t receive the snow Utah did, it was enough to help keep Utah rivers flowing slightly higher than normal.
The latest river report shows Westwater flowing at 9,600 cubic feet per second, Cataract at 27,500, the Yampa at 3,400, the Green River at the Confluence into the Colorado at 13,000, and the San Juan near Bluff at 1,400 cfs.
All of which, says Myke Hughes, owner of Adrift Adventures in Moab, is higher than it would normally be at this time of the year.
Even the Grand Canyon, say Robin Freed of Western Rivers Expeditions, is high.
“Last week it got up to 26,000 and 27,000 (cfs). Today it’s down to 16,000 (cfs), which is still good. The Grand at 16,000 is a good ride,” she said.
“We’ve had ideal runoff this year,” added John Wood, co-owner of Holiday River Expeditions. “We’ve had good flows without hitting the real highs. What it means to us is we’ll get the good flows for a longer period this year. You get the full-body waves that are fun and exciting.”
The cooler spring has allowed the snowpack to melt gradually, instead of coming all at once and flooding the rivers.
During peak flows, for example, Westwater, a popular section of the Colorado River near the Utah/
Colorado border, can run from 15,000 to 18,000 cfs, and Cataract, lower on the Colorado, has run as high as 75,000 to 80,000 cfs on a high year. A few years back, in fact, the National Park Service shut down Cataract for about a week and flew out river passengers by helicopter because the flow reached such a high level.
With the good flow, all three river companies reported, summer bookings have been high.
Hughes said his bookings have been strong, and he expects them to stay high through the summer. Because the economy is strong here in the United States, he added, he has noticed a drop in European traffic.
John Becker, a spokesman for Western River, said records at that company show strong river traffic within the United States from California, New York, Illinois and Mas-sa-chusetts.
“The U.S. is still our strongest market, but outside the country it goes England, Canada, New Zealand and Germany,” he said.
“One thing that has surprised us is our advanced bookings for the Grand Canyon. We’re way ahead of where we were at this time last year.”
A full Grand Canyon trip takes about nine days in a large motor-powered pontoon boat, but some sections can be floated in three or six days.
In some cases, said Hughes, people are combining other experiences with the river.
“For example, we’ll let people ride horses for a few days and then put them on the river. We’ve also got four-wheel tours and rafting, or we’ll put them on a jet-boat tour and then either bring them back up-river or drop them off on shore and bring them back on a four-wheel-drive tour. All of these are very popular,” he added.
Wood said the market within the United States has been strong for Holiday, “And this year especially. Every four or five years something happens that is very noticeable with bookings. This is that year. It’s been strong so far and it looks like it will continue to be strong.”