A final float

Labor Day marks end of commercial tubing season

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Ryan Simms, of Backdoor Sports, unloads tubes this summer. The commercial tubing season will draw to a close this weekend.

— Steamboat Springs' visitors and locals have one of their last opportunities to tube the Yampa River this weekend.

Peter Van De Carr, owner of Backdoor Sports at Ninth and Yampa streets, is one of three Steamboat outfitters allowed to commercially rent tubes under the Yampa River Management Plan. He said he plans to rent tubes and offer shuttle service through the weekend before calling it a season.

"We're not going to send people down if it's not an enjoyable experience," Van De Carr said.

Fortunately for tubers, because of afternoon storms, the Yampa recently jumped well above its 96-year average on the U.S. Geological Survey data chart and looks to remain there through the weekend. Flowing Wednesday afternoon at just more than 140 cubic feet per second, the Yampa is at a low, but floatable, level.

Under the management plan, Open Space Supervisor Craig Robinson said commercial outfitters can use the river from the Fifth Street Bridge to the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge and have an allocated number of weekday and weekend user-days (433 from Monday to Thursday, 500 on Friday and 915 on weekends). The majority of those days belong to Backdoor Sports. Rentals must be suspended if the Yampa's conditions meet the following criteria: two or more days of 75 degree water, sustained low dissolved oxygen levels and a flow below 85 cfs.

Considering past drought years, Van De Carr is glad to have the healthy flows- more than 100 cfs - for this time of year.

"There were three years where we haven't gone into August," Van De Carr said. "In 2002, we barely made it to July 4. It's a wild business, completely tied in with the weather."

Starting in the third week of June, after the Yampa's peak runoff, Van De Carr said he was extremely busy through the first week of August, but that he has seen his customer base drop significantly the past two weeks.

John Kole, owner of One Stop Ski Shop, 35 11th St., said he also noticed the late August drop because of decreased temperatures and visitors to town. Bucking Rainbow / Blue Sky West rented tubes this season from its location at 729 Yampa St. The business will try to continue through the weekend.

Van De Carr thinks tuber impact on the river has been minimal, in part because of the companies' collective river clean-up efforts every other week. And he remains confident in the Yampa's ability to deliver a quality recreational experience.

"It's unbelievable how high the customer satisfaction rate is," Van De Carr said. "It's an essential thing where we can hopefully educate them about the river."

- To reach Dave Shively, call 846-1129 or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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