How Will the Coronavirus Impact Colorado Rafting?

The stringent COVID-19 recreation and travel restrictions in Colorado are forcing rafting companies to face smaller crowd potential due to the need to create social distance. Questions arise about who will travel, who has money and will travel or flying to destinations be allowed. 

Behind skiing, the rafting industry is the second highest contributor to Colorado's recreation economy. Centered on the North and South Platte, Arkansas, Rio Grande, and Colorado Rivers, it contributed almost $188 million to Colorado's economy.

Visitors spend money on river adventures, souvenirs, gas, lodging, and food. Every river floating company has to adopt safety procedures based on the type of trips offered. A half-day trip is not handled in the same way as a multi-day trip.

Rafts vary in size. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The owner of Three Rivers Resort in Almont, Mark Schumacher, developed a set of COVID-19 guidelines for rafting. They include

  • Employees being screened daily
  • No-touch check in for guests
  • Hand sanitizer in all retail and office areas
  • Directional signs guiding visitors where to go
  • Group size monitoring by employees
  • Reducing the number of people on rafts to maintain social distancing
  • Open windows and spaced seating on shuttles and vans
  • Equipment disinfected after each use
  • Clients bringing water bottles and food of their own

The COVID-19 prevention regulations present a puzzle to river raft guides because of social distance difficulty while riding through rapids. It is the most challenging regulation. Outfitters are confident they can follow guidelines to keep individual parties from spreading and mixing out on boats as much as possible. 

Cleaning procedures have been overhauled to keep everything from wetsuits and jackets to boats adequately sanitized. They offer pre-packaged food to guests on trips. Asking customers to wear masks is still under consideration. They would have to be waterproof enough to survive if guests are dunked.

There is a patchwork of regulations that vary from county to county. Statewide officials urge people to recreate within ten miles of home, which puts a damper on companies that are typically fully operational. 

Conversely, locals may look at a raft and camping trip for a weekend that provides something to do. Rafters are counting on Colorado's safer-at-home regulations will lessen as people flood outfitters with requests for reservations.

Weather and Water Conditions

Along with concerns of COVID-19 is the concern of available water. The central US experienced winter conditions at the very beginning of autumn. The meteorological fall began on September 1. A week later, there was a winter-like storm that occurred across the northern Rockies and the Plains.

It caused temperatures to drop and delivered snow to the Rockies and some foothills. The temperature in Denver dropped from 93 degrees one day to 36 degrees the following day. Is that occurrence a preview of what is to occur this winter?

It is predicted that the middle of the country may see big swings in temperatures and dry and active periods. There may be subzero weather driven down the western and central Plains and the Front Range of the Rockies.

Snow is predicted to be prominent during the big swings, especially into parts of Colorado and the northern Rockies, which is beneficial for its resorts. Wyoming, Utah, and Montana, along with the Colorado west slopes, may do well with snowfall. 

Chances for frequent snowfall in parts of Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska are likely. Farther south in the southern Plains, Rockies, and the Four Corners westward, the chances are lower. The central Plains will be a battleground zone that swings from bitter cold to spells of milder weather and back to bitter cold in a week.

Skiers are not the only people hoping for snow early and often. Farmers whose major crop area is winter wheat are also hopeful. A lack of snow endangers the winter wheat crop. It may compound farmers' drought concerns that will carry over to next year. Melting mounting snow helps fill rivers. Below-average snowpack leaves rivers at lower levels and impacts rivers used for rafting adventures. 

Outlook for 2021

At present, Colorado has not imposed statewide travel restrictions, and nonessential travel nationwide is no longer discouraged. Calls are increasing daily from people wanting to book rafting trips. Hoping to cash in on the early season flow, outfitters anxiously await to see how many guests will show. Hopefully, the state waterways will be open for commercial use early in June, to bring much-needed economic activity.

The rafting industry is equipped to handle restrictions caused by the COVID-19 virus. They will juggle things to make it work. Efforts are put forth toward June, July, and August. There are many people with pent up energy in and close to Colorado. 

The best time to go depends on what guests are looking for. In the summer, the Colorado River flow rate is different from other areas. It does not rely on runoff and snowmelt for water in the spring months. The section is dam-controlled, providing the water needed in the summer months for irrigation for agriculture and air-conditioning.

It is during the hottest months of summer that the biggest whitewater flows through the Grand Canyon. On the other hand, the best chance to secure a noncommercial trip permit is in the winter when less-coveted trips are available.

For those who are not experienced paddlers, a commercial rafting trip is the most enjoyable and safest option. A guided trip lets guests fully take in the adventure of a lifetime. They soak up the towering canyon wall sights and appreciate the Colorado River's power without worry about river skills.

Tours include 1/2 And 1 Day, 3-5 Days, 6-9 Days, 12-18 Days trips. All-inclusive luxury rafting trips are excellent options to enjoy the Grand Canyon in style. Guides are boatmen that do everything from loading and steering the raft to the preparation of first-class meals. Planning a rafting trip is about knowing the group and customization. Plan ahead and strive to find a trip that meets fitness, attitude, and overall enthusiasm.