Rafting on the Cache La Poudre, courtesy of A Wanderlust Adventure

Following a delay due to the coronavirus and with limitations in place, floating is back on!

By Shauna Farnell

Back in February, Bob Klein was bracing himself for a gloriously bountiful rafting season. A 27-year employee of A Wanderlust Adventure, Klein had just purchased the outfitter based in the small northern town of Laporte. One of just four rafting outfitters to run the Cache la Poudre, Colorado’s only designated Wild and Scenic River, A Wanderlust’s reservations for spring and summer trips had already begun pouring in. Then, Covid-19 hit. The season was put on hold and several reservations – including a number of large groups – were canceled. But Klein and commercial outfitters across the state are hoping to recoup some of their losses now that Colorado’s whitewater rafting season has been given the green light … albeit with limitations and restrictions in place.

“We had a busy weekend,” Klein said of opening weekend, which took place June 5-7, nearly three weeks later than usual. “We had like 70 people out on the river Saturday and 50 on Sunday. We lost a lot of people, a lot of bookings that happened in January and February. Things were looking really good until Covid hit. We had to wait until the governor said that rafting was OK in Colorado. We’re hoping things pick up from here.”

Per guidelines in the wake of the pandemic, rafting outfitters must limit vehicles and shops to 50 percent capacity and run trips with members of two households maximum. Employees and guests must follow local ordinances for face-covering and physical distancing protocol. Rafts can accommodate up to eight passengers, but Klein said A Wanderlust has been running several with only two guests per raft.

“We’re cleaning like crazy. We moved check-in outside. We’re doing our safety talk outside. We used to just be able to show a video to 70 people at once, but now groups are smaller. All of that takes more time, but I’m proud of our team,” Klein says. “And the guests are loving it. They’re so excited to get out on the river.”

Snow is melting quickly into Colorado’s rivers, which have been noticeably sprinkled with gleeful paddlers now that the season is underway. Rafting companies have been warned that business this season might fall to 20-30 percent of normal, but Klein is optimistic they’ll be able to do better than that.

“The water is really high right now. We’ve got a really good snowpack and we’re optimistic that it’ll stay good on The Poudre into August. It’s always less crowded here than other rivers in the state. We’re hoping locals are going to want to support rafting companies. Instead of leaving for their European vacation, people will think, ‘oh, we haven’t gone rafting in five years. Let’s do that this summer.’”

Photo courtesy of A Wanderlust Adventure

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