Record Water Levels on Tap for 2011 Cataract Canyon Rafting Season
MOAB, UT – June 7, 2011 – The Colorado River through Cataract Canyon in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park is one of the West’s most iconic whitewater rafting rivers, offering some of the world’s biggest and most challenging rapids—even for the most seasoned river guides. As of this morning, the river is running at higher than 68,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). This season’s perfect storm of late season snow, above average snowpack, and an unseasonably cool spring in the Rockies has National Park Service officials and rafting outfitters anticipating one of the biggest spring runoffs on record. Just downstream from Cataract Canyon, releases from Glen Canyon Dam will be increased as well, which means higher water on Grand Canyon rafting trips this year.
Through the month of June and early July the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park is expected to peak between 83,000 and 115,000 CFS, a staggering flow rate compared to the river’s average peak flow of 52,000 CFS. This potentially record-breaking year is the result of a snowpack in the Rockies that currently exceeds 200% of average. The previous record on the Colorado was set in 1984 when the flow in Cataract Canyon peaked at 114,000 CFS. This year, the late approach of warm summer temperatures is expected to open the flood gates as the snow melt commences.
This is great news for rafting outfitter, OARS (Outdoor Adventure River Specialists), one of the most experienced rafting companies in the country. The company is looking forward to this season’s big water and fast flows. OARS President and Founder, George Wendt stated from the company’s headquarters in Angels Camp, CA: “2011 in Cataract Canyon very possibly will be the most exciting year for rafting that anyone has ever seen. Not only are the rapids going to be bigger and more exciting, there will be more time for hiking and exploring the characteristically unique slot canyons, waterfalls and Native American sites of Canyonlands National Park.”
Due to the unusually high flow, OARS is also adding a special one-day Cataract Canyon Express trip to their portfolio of 4- and 6-day trips on the Colorado River. This season’s expected record flows will allow the company to run all 100 miles of Cataract Canyon in one fast-paced, high-adrenaline day in a state-of-the-art motorized sport boat.
Wendt adds: “Although we have many clients who are excited about the conditions we’ll see on the river this year, Cataract Canyon at high water is not for everyone.” The company has raised their minimum age for trips in Cataract Canyon to 16 years through July 15th this year, advising travelers with young children to join trips later in the season or on other rivers. OARS—along with most other outfitters —will also provide motorized support on all high water Cataract Canyon trips to help facilitate a rescue if necessary.
In anticipation of high water on rivers across the West this year, OARS has also taken the initiative to subsidize the cost of Swift Water Rescue training for many of its trip leaders. More than 50 of the company’s guides and trip leaders have earned or renewed accredited Swift Water Rescue Certification in company-sponsored instructional courses this spring.