Outfitters worried about business if rains don't come soon

SUSAN BACON

Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS For many Steamboat Springs residents and tourists, tubing down the Yampa River is the ultimate summer fun.

Not many activities can beat reclining on the cushioned comfort of a rubber tube and floating along with the cool river.

Unless, that is, the tube ride is broken up by protruding rocks and shallow sections that must be walked.

The Yampa River's low levels, which are about one-tenth of what they are in an average year, have some local outfitters worried tubing could become impossible over the next few weeks. Outfitters such as Blue Sky West, Backdoor Sports and Bucking Rainbow Outfitters said business has been good so far and current conditions for tubing are great.

But if rains don't come soon, the tubing season could be cut short. Some outfitters said they might have to bring tubes back into storage before the Fourth of July weekend.

In a typical year, tubing begins around July Fourth and ends around mid-August. Outfitters are also facing the possibility of fewer rafting and fishing trips throughout the summer. Steve Henderson, the assistant manager of Bucking Rainbow Outfitters, said the company has already lost at least 50 percent of its rafting business so far.

"On the rafting, it's going to hit us big because a lot of the rivers that normally have a lot of water don't," Henderson said.

"With the water levels being what they (have been), it has affected our rafting business, it's going to affect our fishing business and it's going to affect our tubing."

Tubing is a smaller fraction of the company's business, but Henderson said it is still important.

He said he expects tourists will show up regardless of the drought.

Most people plan their vacations months ahead of time, he said, and just like the number of people skiing doesn't greatly depend on the quality of snow, the number of summer vacationers shouldn't depend on the

water levels.

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