Publisher’s Letter: Colorado Waterways — Know the Risks!

BY BLAINE HOWERTON

It is with deep sadness that we join communities throughout Northern Colorado in mourning the loss of two young men, one drowned and other lost and presumed dead, on the Poudre River in just the past few days.

Deceptively fast moving waters always demand our respect, research before heading out, and safety preparations. But this season’s snow-melt poses unique threats due to record rainfalls that have raised water levels and dramatically increased the speed and volume of water as it rushes down from the mountains. In addition, the water is so cold that it can alter a person’s ability to respond to an unexpected crisis while out on the water.

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If you are intent to go out on the river this season, one of the first ways to insure safety would be to hire the professionals — the commercial rafting organizations, who through experience, really know what they’re doing and can provide safety equipment you may not own.

But if you are intent on going out with a private group, do your research, plan the trip, read up on safety measures, secure the proper equipment, and most importantly, Pay Attention to Signage. Consider this: If you talk your friends into taking unwarranted risks, you may not be the one to lose your life, but your friend might — that’s a heavy burden to carry going forward.

Here are the Poudre Fire Authority’s list of suggested precautions:

  • Always wear a personal flotation device that is rated for your activity. Not all life vests are the same and the Poudre River is currently flowing high and fast.
  • Remember that the river water is significantly colder than you may anticipate. It is currently around 48 degrees Fahrenheit and people can easily experience hypothermia when in the water.
  • Scout your route the day of your water recreation. The river can change in a matter of hours. An area that appears free of obstacles in the morning could have several obstacles by the afternoon.
  • Float sober – the unpredictability and variety of obstacles in the river requires your full, unimpaired attention.
  • Always crawl out of the river to avoid foot entrapment near the shore.
  • Never underestimate the power of the water.
  • Reach or Throw, Don’t Go: If someone is caught in fast moving water, reach out to them or throw a rope to the person in the water. Don’t go into the water yourself or you may also become in need of rescuing. Call 911 immediately with as many details as possible about the location.

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Blaine Howerton