The Pueblo West View

Snowmelt causing high water levels in river

Snowmelt is causing some high water levels in the Arkansas River prompting officials to close one section near Buena Vista and advise against use of the Royal Gorge section just west of Canon City.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area closed a small section of the Arkansas River Friday until further notice due to safety concerns from a recently constructed diversion structure and boat chute. Water level in the 2-mile stretch from the Buena Vista Whitewater Park to Johnson Village, is running about 3,100 cubic feet per second.

The Royal Gorge section is running at about 3,700 cubic feet per second, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Parkdale gauge.

“The Royal Gorge section is not closed (to boaters) but it is currently under a high-water advisory. With a high-water advisory it is recommended that that section not be run (by commercial rafts) once flows go above 3,200 cubic feet per second,” said Abbie Walls, Division of Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman.

“Our No. 1 priority is public safety,” said Rob White, Arkansas Headwaters manager. “We know this is a popular area of the river, but until we can find a solution, we believe that this area is too dangerous for people to use.”

The good news for whitewater thrill-seekers is that there are plenty of other sections of the river open to rafting access including Browns Canyon just upstream of Salida and the Big Horn Sheep Canyon from Salida to Parkdale. Buena Vista’s Whitewater Park also is still open.

Signs will be posted in the area of river that is closed and Arkansas Headwaters rangers will be on patrol to advise people of the potential hazard, Walls said.

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