11:17am

Fri February 8, 2013
Business

Drought & Wildfires A Devastating Combo For Rafting Industry

Drought and wildfires crippled Colorado’s rafting industry in 2012. That’s according to a new report by the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

The trade group estimates that rafting trips decreased last year by 17 percent.

The year-over-year drop marks the second highest since the Association began tracking trips in 1990. The highest decrease in Colorado happened in 2002, which had similar drought and wildfire conditions compared to 2012.

North of Fort Collins, Bob Klein with A Wanderlust Adventure said he saw a 45 percent decrease in business last summer. That’s because during the High Park Fire, access to the Cache le Poudre River was cut off for three weeks.

“We lost a lot of people, and then the phones weren’t as busy,” he said. “We weren’t as busy in July because people thought the fire was going, they just didn’t want to go rafting at all.”

Credit 2012 Colorado River Outfitters Association Report

According to the Denver Post, the drought impacted water flows in Summit County’s Blue River so severely that commercial rafting access was cut off entirely. The one bright spot last year for the industry was the Colorado River—certain stretches actually saw an increase in traffic.

Looking forward to Colorado’s 2013 rafting season, the report is positive, but there is a caveat:

The outlook for 2013 brightens with consumer spending increases, the stock market at near record levels, and dropping unemployment numbers. Climate change and the potential for drought in 2013 weigh on the possibility of a full recovery.

Despite concerns of mud/ash runoff along the Poudre River and statewide snowpack that is currently 72 percent of normal, A Wanderlust Adventure’s Bob Klein says he’s hopeful about 2013. Even if snowpack doesn’t replenish, Klein says the river will still likely be run-able for customers.

“Even if it’s a low water flow year, we’re optimistic,” he said. “We’ve found that even with lower flows, they have a great time up there.”