ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Whitewater rafting in northern New Mexico is making waves bigger than expected this summer.
Spring rains and mountain runoff have resulted in high water on the Rio Grande since Memorial Day weekend, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1o35rx0) Sunday.
Many river guides say they had been expecting a summer filled with taking patrons on lazy floats. But now, some popular river routes are providing more thrilling rafting experiences than anticipated.
“The Race Course and Taos Box have been an unanticipated blast this year,” said Steve Miller, president of the New Mexico River Outfitters Association and operator of New Wave Rafting of Embudo. “We didn’t think we’d see high water again for a while.”
The state is currently in its fourth year of a drought. Rafting companies say the drought has caused a significant drop in business because the lack of consistently high water flows on popular stretches of the river. Ridership has dropped by half on the Race Course. There have been very few taking to the water in the Taos Box as well, according to federal land managers.
Bureau of Land Management officials say rafts need high flows to negotiate rocky streambeds.
“That’s their bread-and-butter run,” said Mark Sundin, river manager for the BLM in Taos.
Companies in the meantime are promoting more family-friendly and leisurely excursions. Officials believe novices to river running can still find rafting exhilarating.
“A lot of tourists wouldn’t know the difference between our high and low water so, for them, rafting’s just a lot of fun,” Sundin said.
The flows are likely to slow down growth soon. But some companies are hoping anglers will see the benefits. Rafting companies are encouraging those fishing to rent a “funyak” to float along the river through the Orilla Verde Recreation Area, where trout and pike are available.