New Hite Ramp Washed Out

Boat Ramp Washed Out Near The Hite Marina

By Lisa Church, from the Salt Lake Tribune

MOAB - The torrent of water rushing down the Colorado River has washed out a boat ramp near Hite Marina, forcing the National Park Service to dispatch heavy equipment to repair the eroding riverbank so outfitters can pull their boats from the water.

River flows through Cataract Canyon topped 66,000 cubic feet per second on Wednesday, and extra park rangers were stationed below the challenging white-water run to help snag people, boats and equipment pitched into the river by the raging rapids. The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center is projecting flows in that section will peak this weekend above 70,000 cfs.

The park service habitually dispatches additional personnel when Cataract flows reach 55,000 cfs, according to Paul Henderson, Canyonlands National Park spokesman. At that point, the potential for boats to overturn in the churning Colorado becomes "very high," he said. "We've got five people down there right now," Henderson said. "Normally, a routine river patrol is often a solo trip, but when the water is this high, we want to be pre-positioned to intercept anyone who may end up in the river if a boat flips."

But high water can smooth out difficult rapids, making it easier for river guides to maneuver in usually technical areas, Henderson said. "It's the hydraulics. Folks will say that at 35,000 to 40,000 cfs, Cataract is a bigger challenge than it is today. A lot of stuff disappears in big water," Henderson said. "Still, you feel pretty small when you see these walls of red-colored water towering above your boat."

Meanwhile, the boat ramp that serves as the last takeout point before Hall's Crossing, about six hours downstream, has been taken over by the swift, powerful water. In the past two days, the riverbank below the ramp has eroded, carving out a drop of several feet beneath a ledge. "It appears that the biggest issue today is not running the river, it's pulling your boat out," Henderson said. "It's pretty hard to drag some of these J-Rigs up over a steep ledge." Park service workers from Glen Canyon Recreation Area hauled heavy equipment to the site Wednesday to break off the ledge, grade and fill in the area with gravel, Henderson said.

For river outfitters, who have faced five years of low-water flows, the big water is a welcome relief, even if it does bring some problems. "For the guides, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," says Myke Hughes, owner of Adrift Adventures in Moab. "And for people coming off our trips now, they're just amazed - not only by the white water - but also by the skill of the guides running the river." And if outfitters can't get their boats out of the water at Hite, they will just drop off the passengers then float the river an extra six hours to Hall's Crossing, Hughes said.

Across town, Sheri Griffith Expeditions has begun sending a motorized raft to assist in case their oar-powered boats get into trouble, said Arlo Tejada, marketing director for the Moab-based company. "We're telling our passengers everything we can to prepare them," Tejada said. "But everyone is pretty much excited to go. "It's the biggest white water in America right now."