Colorado River to get new whitewater play park at Pumphouse | SteamboatToday.com

Colorado River to get new whitewater play park at Pumphouse

Stakeholders gather for the groundbreaking at the new Gore Canyon Whitewater Park in late November.

— While kayaking play parks have sprouted up across the West in recent decades — including the C and D Holes on the Yampa River in downtown Steamboat Springs — the region's biggest waterway, the Colorado River, only has one engineered kayaking (and board surfing) park: the remarkably popular "wave" in Glenwood Springs.

That's slated to change this spring, however, with construction of the Colorado's second river park near the Pumphouse put-in just downstream of Kremmling and Class V Gore Canyon, an hour's drive away from Steamboat.

Yampa to benefit from river improvements next fall

The Colorado River near Pumphouse isn't the only local waterway benefiting from recreation and fish habitat improvements.

In keeping with the city of Steamboat Springs' Structures Master Plan for the Yampa River, local nonprofit Friends of the Yampa is spearheading a river improvement project to be built next fall from the Ambulance Hole to below the Double Z Bar & BBQ wave downtown.

The project, as permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will include bank stabilization work, fish habitat improvement, a shoring-up and redesign of the Ambulance Hole, which historically has been difficult to navigate for tubers, and improvements to the river corridor at Little Toots Park.

It is being funded by a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, with matching funds from the city and Friends of the Yampa.

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"This project will enhance the downtown stretch of the river with structural features, placing rocks to increase the dynamics of the riffles and rapids for boaters and fisherman alike," Friends of the Yampa board member Kent Vertrees said. "This is a very popular stretch of the Yampa for floaters who tube, raft, kayak and paddleboard. We look forward to finalizing it this year."

In late November, officials from Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Grand County, local landowners and paddlers gathered to announce the construction of the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park right where the Colorado emerges from the Gore Canyon and enters the meandering flats of the Pumphouse Recreation Area.

The park will be located between the top two already established put-in zones.

With the stretch boasting year-round flows, the new site will create a park-and-play venue usable from early spring through fall for Colorado paddlers.

The park also is integral to protecting future flows on the heavily diverted Colorado River.

Since 2010, river conservation group American Whitewater has worked with Grand County on the park's concept and design as well as helped secure political and financial support for the project. With input from hundreds of volunteers, American Whitewater also has defined flow ranges that sustain good paddling opportunities along that section of the Colorado River.

"The project provides important benefits to river recreation and river health, in Grand County and for many miles downstream," American Whitewater's Colorado Director Nathan Fey said. "This project provides certainty for downstream water users, creates new opportunities for paddlers and anglers and complements many other river management actions currently being developed across the Colorado River Basin."

The Gore Canyon Whitewater Park is being built in association with Grand County's Recreational In-Channel Diversion water right.

The RICD, which was filed in 2010, will protect 2,500 cubic feet per second from being taken out of the river, consistent with Colorado Water Law. Similar to the RICD obtained by the city of Steamboat Springs for the Charlie’s Hole structure downtown on the Yampa River, the new RICD for Grand County consists of a new in-channel "feature" that is required by state statute to control and measure the flow in the Colorado River at Pumphouse.

The control feature was designed by Jason Carey, of River Restoration Engineers, which also built the wave in Glenwood Springs downstream.

Consisting of engineer-designed boulders placed across the stream channel that will not be visible at normal flows and will allow for fish passage at all flow rates, the feature is being built just upstream of the second Pumphouse boat ramp.

"By building this project and securing important water rights, our communities can enjoy long-term protections for our river and for its many uses," Fey said.

The park will enhance river-based recreational opportunities in the region; help grow the sport by providing a location for people to develop new skills; and strengthen the local economies. The groundbreaking ceremony kicked off the construction phase of the project, which is scheduled to be complete by April 2015.

Currently, more than 70,000 people visit the area each year.

"The project will provide a unique recreational experience for them," BLM Kremmling Field Manager Stephanie Odell said. "It will also provide permanent protection for water flows supporting fishing and recreational floating."

Yampa to benefit from river improvements next fall

The Colorado River near Pumphouse isn’t the only local waterway benefiting from recreation and fish habitat improvements.

In keeping with the city of Steamboat Springs’ Structures Master Plan for the Yampa River, local nonprofit Friends of the Yampa is spearheading a river improvement project to be built next fall from the Ambulance Hole to below the Double Z Bar & BBQ wave downtown.

The project, as permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will include bank stabilization work, fish habitat improvement, a shoring-up and redesign of the Ambulance Hole, which historically has been difficult to navigate for tubers, and improvements to the river corridor at Little Toots Park.

It is being funded by a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, with matching funds from the city and Friends of the Yampa.

“This project will enhance the downtown stretch of the river with structural features, placing rocks to increase the dynamics of the riffles and rapids for boaters and fisherman alike,” Friends of the Yampa board member Kent Vertrees said. “This is a very popular stretch of the Yampa for floaters who tube, raft, kayak and paddleboard. We look forward to finalizing it this year.”