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River Rafting Pioneer, Western River Expeditions, Predicts High Waters, Stellar Year on West’s White Waters

2 Minute Read

Salt Lake City, UT This spring / summer promises to be one of the top 10 best high water years on record for the Colorado River System in Utah and Arizona, reports Brian Merrill, CEO of Western River Expeditions that 50 years ago helped pioneer the sport of river rafting on white waters of the West.

“It’s possibly the best water year ever on Utah’s Green River in our half century of river running,” Merrill said. He noted that for raft enthusiasts and whitewater adrenaline junkies “2011 is THE year to book a river trip through Westwater or Cataract Canyons of the Colorado River or Gray and Desolation Canyons on the Green.” Also, the Bureau of Reclamation is releasing extra flow from Glen Canyon Dam which means higher water through the Grand Canyon this year. (The water release strategy is an effort to increase the level of Lake Mead.)

Merrill anticipated that high water would continue through late July this year; ordinarily it tapers off at the end of June. The public may monitor Colorado and Green River drainages on a daily basis by going to:

As of mid May the water content from snowpack in the mountains of the Colorado River Basin is the fifth highest on record, potentially making this year one of the 10 best high water years ever, with 1984 setting records when the flow in Cataract Canyon peaked at 114,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). In 1983 it peaked at 103,000 CFS. The current snowpack is 10 percent behind where it was at this point in 1983 and 20 percent behind where it was in 1984. Anything over 50,000 CFS is considered significant according to Merrill.

“We will easily exceed that number this year,” said Merrill. “There is no way to accurately predict because there are so many variables such as how quickly will the weather warm up and the amount of spring rainfall. These factors could either cause the water to peak quickly or come down more gradually creating a nice sustained flow that stretches later into the summer. But based on the snowpack and the long-term weather prediction, we could easily see levels around 70,000 – 80,000 CFS on the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon.”

He explained that two benefits of faster, higher water are bigger and more exciting rapids plus faster journeys down river so there’s more time for side canyon hiking and exploring.

“Desolation Canyon on the Green River, again thanks to snowpack, will be spectacular. It’s still a more moderate river as compared to the Colorado River, but a great number of the rapids become a solid Class III, and it is incredibly fun.  It is more rare for the Green River to get big, so this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The larger waves and increased river speed present high water challenges that his staff have been trained to meet.

“Our philosophy is that we always prepare for the most extreme conditions and if we don’t have them, it’s ok to be over-prepared,” he said.

Rafting trips offered by Western River Expeditions range from one to seven days:

Westwater Canyon, Colorado River;

Cataract Canyon, Colorado River – 2 day and 4 day;

Desolation & Gray Canyons, Green River;

Grand Canyon, Colorado River

Contributing members are responsible for the accuracy of content contributed to the Member News section of AdventureTravelNews.

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