With an underwhelming snowpack that’s hovering at average to below average across much of the western U.S., rafting outfitters anticipate normal whitewater conditions this year. According to OARS, which released its 2021 Rafting Outlook this week.

“Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, OARS had to cancel the first half of our season, and like many outfitters, we were unsure if we’d be able to run trips at all,” said Steve Markle, OARS vice president of sales and marketing. “While this year’s snowpack is nothing to write home about, the conditions for boating are mostly favorable across the West, and we are poised for a remarkably solid season.”

While outfitters don’t expect to see epic high water this season, the benefit of a lower water year is that rafters can look forward to low-stress flows throughout the summer on many of the West’s whitewater rivers.

OARS provides additional insight about the upcoming whitewater rafting season and what to expect in its annual rafting outlook.

  • Idaho’s snowpack for major river basins is currently hovering around 90 percent, but a cool and wet spring indicates the snowpack will linger longer and provide optimal summer rafting conditions;
  • In Oregon, the snowpack is above average for northern river basins, but even for river basins that are slightly below average, demand for rafting trips is high, and outfitters report limited availability for multi-day trips going into the peak summer season;
  • A below-average snowpack across the Upper Colorado River Basin means lower but reliable water levels for popular river trips like Utah’s Green River through Gates of Lodore and Desolation Canyon, which can count on water releases from upstream reservoirs, and the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon. The free-flowing Yampa will also be in play but May to early June offers the best flows;
  • In California, mild winter and statewide snowpack that’s at 59 percent, the normal average, is not expected to heavily impact rafting on dam-controlled rivers like the American River and the Tuolumne River. Like the Merced River and the North Fork of the American, popular whitewater stretches without upstream reservoirs are on track to have abbreviated seasons due to the modest snowpack;
  • With months of departures canceled last season, Grand Canyon rafting trips are in high demand, with some outfitters nearly sold out through 2022; and
  • Rafters should still expect many of the same COVID-19 protocols in place during the 2020 season to minimize the risk of transmission on the river.

To read the report, go here

Photo courtesy OARS