Steamboat Springs Pete Van De Carr can't stress it enough: The Yampa River is flowing way too fast for tubing.
Maybe if a person had a wet suit, a life jacket, a helmet and even fins, tubing could be safe, the owner of Backdoor Sports said. Van De Carr said he probably would be willing to send people 18 and older, with life jackets, when the river flow dips below 700 cubic feet per second.
It was flowing at 2,050 cfs in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday afternoon. That was a decrease from 2,270 cfs Monday morning.
Van De Carr said it was tough to predict when the flow would drop low enough for tubing season to begin.
"My best guess is the weekend after the Fourth of July," he said.
Van De Carr said the river is perfect for rafting and kayaking, however. Again - wear a life jacket, he said.
"Anybody going down the river at above 500 cfs without a life jacket is just testing Darwin's law of the survival of the fittest," Van De Carr said. "It's really dangerous."
He said Backdoor Sports checks the river flow daily to determine what's safe and what isn't. People definitely were tubing by this time last year, Van De Carr said.
Jarrett Duty, who owns Bucking Rainbow Outfitters, said his business tended to be more conservative than Van De Carr's when it came to tubing. Bucking Rainbow also is not sending tubes down the Yampa now.
"At these water levels, we're not comfortable putting anybody out," Duty said.
The big business now for Bucking Rainbow and Backdoor is rafting, the men said.
"Typically, this time of the year, we're coming off the river," Duty said. "The rafting season through July is going to be fantastic."
More 80-degree days probably will help slow the water flow.
"There's a chance we're going to be running by the Fourth of July," Van De Carr said. "Everybody's just guessing."
Craig Robinson, open space and trail supervisor for the city of Steamboat Springs, said several factors contribute to river flow.
"It's all dependent on how much snowpack there is up there and the runoff," Robinson said. "Typically, some commercial river operators start when the river flows drop below 800 cfs. It's up to the commercial operators to determine when it's safe. At 800 cfs there's still a lot of current."
Robinson said people aren't required to wear life jackets.
"There's no law that states that you're supposed to wear one, but it's definitely for your own safety and highly recommended," he said. "The river, it's not Disneyland - it's an actual ecosystem. There's currents and cold water, and people need to be aware of those things."
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