How has COVID-19 Impacted the 2020 Paddling Season?

Trip Reports
Canyon gloomy kayak paddle
Victoria Ohegyi

Life with COVID-19 has changed daily life. But has it impacted paddlers and how they paddle?

Since March 14, we’ve been collecting the latest on permit cancelations and asking those who are boating: “what is paddling during COVID-19 like?”

COVID-19 has us monitoring and changing our practices (including paddling) daily. You will notice the decrease in paddling stories as you move chronologically through this blog.

**Note: CKS Online does not endorse anything written in this blog. Everyone interviewed below paddled locally within their communities. CKS’s position on paddling is that not responsible for anyone to go anywhere public or where transmission could occur. No one should be leaving their house to go to public places (many put-ins) or risking hospital exposure. The purpose of this blog is to share relevant paddling news and stories of those who did paddle in the early days of COVID-19**

April 1, 2020

For the most up to date information on coronavirus / COVID19-related River Closures, refer to this list.

March 31, 2020

Vail’s GoPro Mountain Games, are postponing the annual mountain sports, music and lifestyle event until Aug. 20-23. The event had previously been scheduled for June 4-7 in Vail.

March 30, 2020

BLM is canceling backcountry permits for the San Juan River Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA) beginning March 31 until such time as conditions allow for safe use. Refunds will be issued.

March 25, 2020

April 2020 Tallulah releases are canceled.

March 24, 2020

Yampa River, Town Run

I am struggling with the whole paddling thing right now. I’ve been running into so many people at the put-in and on the river, so I feel really guilty about going to the river right now.

The more we hunker down, stay inside and truly limit our exposure to other people, the sooner we can get back to our ordinary lives.  If we don’t we will overload our medical system, everybody will get sick and we will be dealing with this for another year. I think short term sacrifices lead to long term enjoyment for the paddling season. Otherwise, we risk losing our entire paddling season.

March 21, 2020

Yampa & Green River, Gates of Lodore

No early season Yampa or Lodore trips are happening this year.

March 20, 2020

Colorado River, Grand Canyon

As of March 24, 2020, Grand Canyon river rafting trips including administrative, research, private and commercial trips, are suspendeduntil May 21, 2020.

There will be no April Grand Canyon trips this year.

Upper Salt River

United States Forest Service announced that no Upper Salt River permitted trips will occur for the rest of the runoff season. We hope to talk to our friends who launched on March 16 about their experience on the Salt during COVID-19.

Some not so good news from Don (who writes the second funniest emails in the industry)

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Skykomish River, Cable Drop to Split Rock / Confluence to Split Rock

My roommate and I drove together, so we had three cars for four paddlers. Our third paddler ran our shuttle, so not all four of us that did two laps had to ride together. We all did elbow bumps instead of hugs at the put in and take out. We were all using our own gear and no one swam (so there were no rescue scenarios).

Boofing is social distancing

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Yampa River, Town Run

I paddled from River Park to Fetcher. When I got to River Park, the UCHealth nurses had a COVID-19 intake center there (a 10×10 canopy in the parking lot) with a few patients waiting in their cars, but once I got on the river I didn’t see a single soul.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Yampa River, Town Run

The river was flowing at 200+ CFS. A little bit bony, but deep enough to paddle. Hala’s Radito (with it’s Stompbox and low-pro fins) was perfect to paddle on.  Although, if you fall off your SUP, you’re falling into a foot of water, which tells me that it’s kneepad season. Rivers in the Rockies are shallow right now. I wore my NRS drysuit with some thermal layers underneath. Although temperatures have been warmer than normal, the river is still fed from snowmelt and hypothermia is a true threat.

The river seemed normal, but floating through town felt like you were passing through an abandoned movie set. Usually, people line up on the 5th and 9th bridges to watch kayakers, rafters, and paddlers on the Yampa, but today there was no one. Not a single soul. Activity at the put-in and take out wouldn’t immediately indicate to anyone that we’re in the middle of a pandemic.

Today’s paddle was most normal I have felt since this whole thing has started to unfold. While I was paddling, I actually didn’t think about COVID much, which I consider a blessing. The only time someone mentioned coronavirus was at the put-in where someone had hand sanitizer and safely shared it with the six other people getting ready to float.

Sunset on the Yampa, March 17

Colorado River, Gore Canyon

I believe that canyons are one of the safest places to be right now. I didn’t notice a difference at the put-in or take out.

At 550 CFS, Gore was lower than I had ever seen it which gave it a whole new feel. It was low water creeking with rock boofs, tight lines, fun surfs and amazing squirts. It was class III-IV fun rather than the normal class IV-V big water feel. The ice is gone and spring has arrived.

Gore Canyon, March 17, 2020

Monday, March 16, 2020

Kootenai River

It’s always badass.

James River

No one is out on the bridges, and most people are biking their shuttles.

Colorado River, Shoshone Section

It was perfect today. There were 4 other kayakers at the put-in. It was the perfect place to be after I heard that I am currently unemployed.

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