Paddles and shovels were used for the groundbreaking at the new Gore Canyon Whitewater Park in late November. Photo courtesy of American Whitewater

Paddles and shovels were used for the groundbreaking at the new Gore Canyon Whitewater Park in late November. Photo courtesy of American Whitewater

By Eugene Buchanan

While kayaking play parks have sprouted up across the West in recent decades, the region’s biggest waterway, the Colorado River, only has one engineered kayaking park, the remarkably popular ‘wave’ in Glenwood Springs, Colo. That’s slated to change next spring, however, with construction of the Colorado’s second park near the Class V Gore Canyon.

In late November, officials from BLM, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Grand County, local landowners and paddlers gathered together 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.

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

The park is also integral to protecting future flows on the heavily-diverted Colorado River. Since 2010, river conservation group American Whitewater has worked with Grand County on its concept and design, and helped secure political and financial support for the project. With input from hundreds of volunteers, AW has also 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,” says Nathan Fey. “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 (RICD) water right. The RICD, which was filed in 2010, will protect 2,500 cfs from being taken out of the river, consistent with Colorado Water Law. The RICD 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," adds Fey.

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," says BLM Kremmling Field Manager Stephanie Odell. "It will also provide permanent protection for water flows supporting fishing and recreational floating."

–Read more WHITEWATER KAYAK news from C&K.