U.S. Water News Online
SALIDA, Colo. -- Outfitters along the Arkansas River this
year have taken a $24 million hit because of drought conditions.
The Colorado River Outfitters Association estimated rafting
brought more than $60 million to the Upper Arkansas River regional
economy last year.
Rafting is estimated to be down this year about 40 percent, and
may not exceed $36 million.
Rafting outfitter Dennis Wied, who has owned and operated Raft
Masters in Canon City for 13 seasons, said his business was down
about 33 percent, and he believes riverwide commercial boating is
down 50 percent.
Canyon Marine owner Greg Felt said he had about 15 percent fewer
customers in his rafting business but in dollar terms the impact was
River ranger Stew Pappenfort of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation
Area office in Salida has been on the river more than a
quarter-century. Pappenfort predicts rafting numbers will be down 40
percent this year.
The recreation area's number cruncher, Mike Walker, said he will
not have exact figures from rafting company owners until Nov. 1, but
he, too, predicts boater numbers will be significantly less than
Because of the low water this year, the fishing industry should
have experienced a boon. That is not the case for Felt, who also
offers float fishing trips.
``There has been no increase in float fishing trips as I
anticipated. There has been a bigger decline in float fishing than
rafting,'' Felt said.
Felt believes that information about the drought's effect on fish
-- such as high water temperatures and less oxygen content causing
stress -- may have scared anglers away.
The Royal Gorge Bridge was down 16 percent in visitor numbers by
the beginning of September, looking at the worst tourism year in its
history, general manager Michael Bandera said. He blamed the decline
on twin threats of fires and drought. ``We were up on attendance
until the June 2 (Iron Mountain) Fire, then attendance dropped 30 to
40 percent immediately,'' Bandera said.
It wasn't long before the huge Hayman Fire was the only national
news coming out of Colorado, and ``tourists started thinking the
entire state was on fire,'' Bandera said.
Fishing guide Rod Patch, who operates the Arkansas River Fly Shop
on busy U.S. 50 in Salida, also has had less business this summer
despite the fact that the river's brown trout are healthier than they
ever have been.
``It is slower than normal. We depend a lot on tourism traffic
coming through town and we didn't see that traffic this summer.
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