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Colorado White Water Rafting to Be Top Notch in 2011

By Jeaneane Payne

river rafting
Colorado river rafting. Image courtesy of

White water rafting is expected to be one of the best on record this year for the Colorado River with high waters from snow melting off mountains. The winter snowfalls in Colorado is causing water content from snow packed mountains to be the fifth highest on record for the Colorado River Basin.

Western River Expeditions CEO Brian Merrill promises white water rafting to have one of the top ten best high water years on record. His company helped pioneer the sport of river rafting on the West's white waters 50 years ago.

"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. Colorado and Green River drainages can be monitored by the public on a daily basis by going to:

"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."

His staff has been trained to meet the larger waves and increased river speed presented by high water challenges.

"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 –

Western River Expeditions Western River Expeditions ( is an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab, Utah and Fredonia, Arizona. Annually from March through October it escorts more people down rivers on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah, Idaho and Arizona than any other company. It is the largest licensed outfitter in the Grand Canyon and the largest single tour provider in Moab, UT, through its division Moab Adventure Center (

Western River Expeditions, providing Grand Canyon rafting, Utah rafting, and Idaho rafting trips, was founded in 1961 by Colorado River rafting pioneer Jack Currey. Today it pursues a "guiding green" philosophy and belongs to some of the top environmentally conscious organizations in the world: See:

In 2009, Western River Expeditions was named one of the "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth" by the editors of National Geographic Adventure magazine. The company was recently honored as the 2010 recipient of "Best of State" through Utah's Premier Recognition and Awards Program. This is the seventh consecutive year Western River Expeditions has earned this distinction.

Published May 21, 2011.

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