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Final Slate River Floating Management Plan Released (CO)

Posted: 05/16/2019
By: Kestrel Kunz

Crested Butte, CO - Increased user conflict on the Slate River has led to a Floating Management Plan that proposes a "voluntary no-float period" between March 15 and July 15 this season. Since our last news post in November, the Slate River Floating Management Plan has been updated and revised for the 2019 season. An open house will be at The Depot in Crested Butte on Thursday, May 16 and it is critical that paddlers from the local community attend and engage in the conversation.

The Slate River between Oh Be Joyful Campground and Skyland Bridge, a 10.5 mile stretch, provides an incredibly scenic and unique flatwater paddling experience in the Gunnison Valley. The majority of the paddling experiences in the immediate vicinity of Crested butte are demanding Class IV-V, which makes the Slate River a really unique experience for beginner paddlers and those looking for a more family friendly floating experience.

In spring of 2018, the Slate River Working Group was convened by the Town of Crested Butte and the Crested Butte Land Trust. The Working Group was created in direct response to pressure from the local community, including conservationists and private landowners adjacent to the river, who are concerned that a recent increase in boating activity is disturbing a Heron Rookery that straddles the Slate River. The purpose of the Working Group, a group of 18 local stakeholders, was to "provide input and partner in recommending river recreation management actions necessary for upholding the ecological integrity of the Slate River."

The main changes from the November Plan include 1) updated 2019 flow predictions and 2) a longer "voluntary no-float period" from Gunsight Bridge to the Town Rec Path from March 15 to July 15 (previously, March 15 to June 21). 

We attended the Public Meeting in October and have submitted written and verbal comment advocating for continued scientific research and more thorough public engagement. Coming into this season we will be attending public meetings, monitoring potential river conflicts, and encouraging more involvement from the paddling community. Simultaneously, we aim to help educate river users and foster a strong river stewardship ethic in the valley. We believe that responsible and sustainable exposure to wildlife will inspire conservationists and conscious use of our natural landscapes.

In order to successfully navigate the complex user conflicts in the Slate River corridor, we need the paddling community to get involved. If you're a local or a visitor and if you love to float this stretch or you'd prefer to slide down OBJ, we need the support of the whole paddling community. How can you help? Scrutiny of the paddling community has increased and we need to be on our best behavior. We need to set strong examples for new paddlers and new members of the community. Share your knowledge of river etiquette and your stewardship ethic with others and hold your friends accountable.

Secondly, we need paddlers to get more involved in the discussion. American Whitewater is advocating for increased public input opportunities and it is important that paddlers take advantage of any opportunity to submit feedback on the 2019 Floating Management Plan.

There is an Open House in Crested Butte TOMORROW @ 5pm at The Depot and this will be an important opportunity to ask questions and to demonstrate that the paddling community is engaged in the conversation. Throughout the 2019 season, American Whitewater will also be helping solicit feedback and input from the paddling community. Please email with any concerns or questions.

Voluntary No-Float Period: The recommended "voluntary no-float period" is from March 15 to July 15. It is completely up to you to decide whether or not to paddle during this period. As this is solely a recommended no-float period, there are no repercussions for paddling during this time. If you choose to float and you encounter harassment or other negative encounters, please inform American Whitewater immediately.

If you are floating this reach before or after July 15 this season, we encourage all paddlers to practice the highest level of river etiquette and stewardship ethics. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Paddle in small groups
  • Consider paddling one by one through the Heron Rookery area
  • Use quiet voices and avoid using loud music
  • Know where the public access points are (e.g., Oh Be Joyful Campground, Gunsight Bridge, Town Rec Path, Skyland Bridge, etc.)
  • Avoid walking on private property unless it is to avoid a dangerous river hazard
  • Avoid urinating, defecating, or otherwise leaving waste anywhere in the river corridor (take advantage of the bathrooms available at Oh Be Joyful and Gunsight Bridge)

For a more information on river etiquette and how to reduce your paddler footprint, check out this recent article, Play Hard and Leave Only Paddle Strokes, written by Kevin Colburn.

Photo courtesy of the Crested Butte Land Trust.

Kestrel Kunz

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