The rivers go on: Plenty of whitewater to come

Don't go cold — wear that life jacket

It isn’t the icy water of the Colorado River that sends the biggest chill down the back of an experienced river rat.

Rather, it’s the sight of someone floating high water without a life jacket.

“I look out the window every day and see someone floating past without a life jacket, and I think, ‘Really, guys?’ ” said Tom Kleinschnitz of Adventure Bound River Adventures in Grand Junction. “Being someone who’s been around water all my life, when I look at the Colorado River going past at 20,000 cfs (cubic feet per second), you couldn’t pay me enough to get out on these rivers without a life jacket.”

Yet almost any trip to the Colorado or Gunnison rivers will reveal floaters in inner tubes or plastic rafts meant for the swimming pool, with few of the people wearing life jackets, or personal flotation devices, as the U.S. Coast Guard calls them.

The inner tubes and tiny rafts have their time and place, but life jackets should always be worn, especially when the water is high and waves are choppy.

Kleinschnitz says it might be a matter of local floaters simply not being experienced when it comes to big water.

“When you’re normally accustomed to floating 810 cfs, and then suddenly you get water at 8,000 cfs, you’re going to have a completely different experience, and you have to be ready,”  Kleinschnitz said.

“Here in Grand Junction, when it’s August and 100 degrees and the river is low, you can have a great time, drinking beer and kicking back on the river,” he said. “But if that’s all you’ve done, you won’t recognize the dangers as the water comes up.”


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