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Drought means mixed outlook for rafting on Western rivers

Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia should see a solid river rafting season

Despite a dismal snowpack in the Sierra (about 5% of normal as of April 1), several California rivers that are fed by dam-controlled reservoirs should have solid rafting seasons this summer, outfitters report.

Those include the Middle and South Forks of the American River, Cherry Creek and the Tuolumne and Klamath rivers.   But others such as the Kern River will have a greatly diminished season because of low flows.

Inflatable kayak trips are now being run on the Kern, and some limited rafting will be offered starting in May and lasting into June,  a spokeswoman for Sierra South said.  

Angels Camp, Calif.-based O.A.R.S., will not offer trips on the Merced River because of lack of water, said Steve Markle, a spokesman. Zephyr Whitewater Rafting will offer a few trips on the Kaweah into early May, but other rivers such as the Kings, the North Fork of the Stanislaus and the North Fork of the American -- all dependent on snowpack runoff -- will not have seasons.  

Elsewhere in the Western U.S. and Canada, Markle said rivers such as the Chilko in British Columbia should have plenty of water, thanks to a near-normal snowpack in the Chilcotin and Coast Ranges.

The Colorado River through Cataract Canyon in Utah, the Arkansas River in Colorado, the Green River on the Utah/Colorado border and the Main Salmon and Snake Rivers in Idaho should have adequate flows.  

The Rogue River in southern Oregon will have a regular season this summer, said Zach Collier, who runs ECHO River Trips. The Rogue drainage area received near normal precipitation this winter in the form of rain, which filled the reservoir that feeds the river.

In Idaho, which had a much better snow year than California, the Middle Fork of the Salmon will have a good season, Collier said. The Main Salmon and the Snake River also will have enough water for rafting trips, said O.A.R.S. spokesman Markle.   

"The offerings will be somewhat limited this year," said Collier, who also runs the Chetko River in southern Oregon. "So it'd be a good idea to get in touch with your favorite outfitter and find out where to go and when would be the best time."

If you can make it to the East Coast -- which got tons of snow this winter -- rivers such as Maine's Penabscot, the New in West Virginia and the Chattooga, Nolichucky and French Broad Rivers in the Southeast will all be rocking this summer, Markle said. 



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