In the hot months of summer, the Arkansas River maintains flow thanks to the Voluntary Flow Management Program, and that’s great for Central Colorado’s rafting industry
Summer’s upcoming high temperatures and the West’s current drought conditions can slow the flow in Colorado’s rivers, making it a challenge to raft. But on the Arkansas River, the story is a bit different. Thanks to the unique Voluntary Flow Management Program (VFMP), water flows remain at a minimum of 700 cubic feet per second July 1st through August 15th, ensuring the rafting season remains strong all summer long.
During a hot summer like the one we expect to see in 2021, it takes a lot of cooperation from a variety of water interests to guarantee a great whitewater boating season. However, it’s the United States Bureau of Reclamation that manages VFMP as it also operates the reservoirs from which the water comes.
The VFMP’s annual operation during the summer season benefits not only rafting companies and private boaters, but it helps support the many communities—like Buena Vista and Salida—that depend on tourism as an economic driver.
During the rest of the year, the flow management program is also used to protect and enhance fisheries by boosting minimum flows to protect trout. As a result, the Arkansas River has been named a gold medal fishery because of its world-class brown and rainbow trout fishing opportunities.
Want to learn more? I’m happy to arrange interviews with two Buena Vista-based rafting outfitters who run trips on the Arkansas River all summer long!
- Brandon Slate, Owner of RMOC
- Brian Ellis, Owner of Wilderness Aware Rafting