Document - Quantifying Whitewater Recreation Opportunities in Cataract Canyon of the Colorado River, Utah


The structural norm approach was combined with the Potential for Conflict Index to define recreation streamflow needs for the Colorado River in Utah and Colorado. An online survey was completed by 128 commercial and non-commercial boaters, who evaluated a range of flows for whitewater boating. For the Cataract Canyon reach, respondents rated the quality of their recreation experience of specific flows, describing the quality of boating opportunities across the full range of historical streamflows. Ranges for both acceptable and optimum flows were defined, as well as thresholds for unacceptable flows. These ranges were then evaluated against historical hydrologic records to quantify the timing, frequency, and duration of days when defined whitewater flows exist across different year types (i.e. average boatable days). Results indicated that on average, a total of 257 boatable days existed in dry years, and 353 total boatable days occurred in dry-typical years. In wet and wet-typical years, 362 and 365 total boatable days respectively, occurred on average. Results of the boatable days’ analysis indicated that over the 23-year period of record, whitewater boating opportunities occurred nearly every day of the year in all but the driest year types. Results from this study provide resource managers with information which can be used in the development of annual operating plans for the Colorado River Basin and help managers understand how changes in flow impact the quality of recreational opportunities. This application demonstrates the value of analysing boatable days on any river where recreation management is a priority.


American Whitewater staff and Dr. Jerry Vaske (Colorado State University) published this study in the River Research and Applications Journal in June, 2016. The development of the Boatable Days metric described in this peer reviewed article has supported American Whitewater's stewardship work and led to numerous other studies.

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Filename - Quantifying Whitewater Recreation Opportunities in Cataract Canyon of the Colorado River, Utah2526.pdf

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