American Whitewater's GoreFest 2016!

Posted: 09/02/2016
By: Evan Stafford
It’s safe to say that Gore Fest 2016 was a huge success! The weekend was host to great flows, skilled paddlers, just the perfect amount of carnage, and an incredible volunteer squad that kept the river safe and the party wild. Over 400 people joined us at Rancho del Rio to enjoy what Gore Canyon and the Upper Colorado have to offer. A total of 153 kayakers, rafters, and SUP-boarders competed in races and freestyle events. Overall, we had 159 new and renewing members pledge to support American Whitewater and our stewardship efforts. These membership metrics bring us to over 300% of our event-based membership goals this summer. 
As water allocation issues intensify throughout the state, AW needs more membership support than ever in order to leverage optimal river flows for wildlife and recreation on the Colorado River and other rivers around the state. Currently, one of the most important venues to leverage our recreational rights is through the recently published Colorado Water Plan. 
The headwaters of the Colorado represents more than just one of the largest watersheds in the United States; It represents Colorado as a headwater state (i.e., no rivers flow into it); the only other headwater state is Hawaii. For this reason, Colorado’s rivers are completely dependent on snowpack and rain within the state, which are both becoming more and more unpredictable. The headwaters represent the vast number of stakeholders that rely on the Colorado River: 2 countries, 7 states and 33 million people. For years diversion tunnels and dams have stretched the Colorado to its limits in order to meet the demands of our ever-growing populations (making it the most controlled river in the US). In response to pressures on the Colorado River and other rivers like it, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper called for an official water plan for the state. In November, 2015 the first State-wide Water Plan was published, outlining the future of water resources in the state.  
As the primary voice for recreational paddling in Colorado, American Whitewater delivered clear recommendations on how recreation should be represented in the water plan. Specifically, we introduced “boatable days” as a common metric in stream and water management plans in order to improve communication between stakeholder groups and across watersheds. Additionally, AW continues to work with the Colorado Water Conservation Board to advocate for recreational rights in the In-Stream Flows program (ISF) and for Recreational In-Channel Diversions (RICDs) to not require control structures (i.e., a man-made whitewater park).
While we have been working directly with the state and other stakeholder organizations to ensure proper representation of recreation in the new water plan, one of our most important jobs is to engage the public’s support for the water plan and increase public pressures to ensure that recreational rights are improved as the Colorado Water Plan is carried out.  
The Upper Colorado is a prime example of how public support and direct recommendations from American Whitewater have led to a new whitewater park with an RICD, multiple river sections with protected flows, and generally more respect for recreational rights on the river. Now we must continue to work together to improve these rights and conserve other prime recreational areas similar to the Upper Colorado. 
We ask you, our members, readers, and supporters, to educate yourselves on the Colorado Water Plan, engage in conversations, and speak up to protect your right to recreate safely on the rivers you love. To learn more about the Colorado Water Plan and how to get involved please check out the official Colorado Water Plan webpage
Colorado Stewardship Director

Nathan Fey

1601 Longs Peak Ave.

Longmont, CO 80501

Phone: 303-859-8601
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