Jun 282011
 
Authors: Allison Knaus

Warm summer temperatures throughout the state of Colorado have helped contribute to the fast-melting snowpack and high water levels of the Poudre Valley River, which ultimately caused the death of a rafter last week.

The city of Fort Collins Parks Department and Natural Areas Program have maintained the closure of access from the Cache La Poudre River from managed parks and natural areas bordering the river. The restrictions in place still allow commercial operations, kayakers and the use of multi-chambered rafts.

But the city is still considering tightening these restrictions.

At 12:40 p.m. on June 23 near the Mishawaka Inn, just west of Fort Collins, Larimer County Emergency Services and the Larimer County Dive Rescue Team responded to a call regarding four rafters who had reportedly been thrown into the Cache La Poudre River.

The spot is popular but can be particularly challenging for rafters, said Erik Nilsson, Larimer County Emergency Management manager.

Upon arrival, two of the three rafters were rescued from a small island and another suffered a broken leg.

The victim, who was unable to be revived and reportedly died on scene, according to the Larimer County Coroner’s Office, was Frank Diskin, 69, of Parsons, Kan.

Diskin and the three other rafters were part of a commercial rafting trip operated by Rocky Mountain Adventures of Fort Collins.

As noted in a city of Fort Collins press release, urban rivers are not a safe place for recreation during high flow times because the river is filled with debris and other hazardous material that could pose a very serious threat to anyone caught in the stream.

Along with the danger of debris, fast-moving muddy currents can hide and carry large rocks, logs and other hazards. While river currents may be deceiving, as little as six inches of water can move a car and patrons are advised to stay away from even shallow water until the river recedes, noted the release.

“People see the Poudre River as a big water park, but it’s actually quite dangerous,” Nilsson said.

The partial use restriction of the Poudre River is meant to keep people safe because it is dangerous to be out there, according to Rick Bachand, the Ranger Supervisor for the Natural Area Environmental Program.

“The best advice that we can give is to stay away from the river until the waters calm,” he said.

The bans placed do not restrict kayakers, commercial operations and the use of multi-chambered rafts like those of Rocky Mountain Adventures, who were operating the rafting trip Diskin was on, Bachand explained.

However, the ban does include single-chambered air-inflated devices, such as inner tubes, certain types of air mattresses and small inflatable rafts. Violators will receive a $100 fine.

According to Nilsson, the Public Information Officer will take many factors into consideration in determining whether additional restrictions need to be made for the use of commercial operations, kayakers and multi-chambered rafts.

“It’s not an easy decision to make, it’s not something we can just decide over night,” Nilsson said.

The weather will be a key player the next few weeks in the levels of the Poudre River and how much runoff it receives, explained John Haukaas, Water Engineering and Field Services Manager for the city of Fort Collins.

“We’re right on top of things and updating information as soon as it becomes available,” he said.

For frequent updates on additional bike trail or river closures, visit www.fcgov.com/utilities.

Staff writer Allison Knaus can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 1:24 pm

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