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Rafters Learn About Drought, Ecology on Community River Float

The Roaring Fork Conservancy

More than 100 people jumped into rafts on Saturday for an annual float down the Roaring Fork River. Only, this float wasn’t just an excuse to cool off on a hot day. It was meant to be a learning experience or a classroom on water. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.

Alongside the river in Glenwood Springs, volunteers lug a big raft full of people to shore. They’re part of the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s 9th annual River Float. The non profit fills more than a dozen boats with participants and an ambassador who talks about the in’s and out’s of the river. 

The ambassadors are water lawyers and engineers, botanists and ecologists who talk about how the some river water is diverted to farmland on the Front Range. They also point out wildlife, like bald eagles, that the river supports. Sarah Johnson with the Roaring Fork Conservancy says the lessons are meant to get people excited about the river.

“I’d say the goal is to heighten awareness of river and water issues and engage in a dialogue and conversation, so anyone in the community can come and feel comfortable asking questions and feel really a part of the conversation," she says.

She says people learn about threats to the river such as drought and climate change.

“I think the drought is one of the biggest issues. Last year, the Crystal dried up to one cubic feet per second, so this year we’re working hard to keep water in the river."

The Conservancy puts citizen scientists into the field each summer to measure water temperature, as a way to gauge impacts from drought.

Even though the rafts on Saturday were flowing on near-peak river flows, Johnson says the spring runoff is lower than average, partly due to an ongoing drought. The Roaring Fork Valley is experiencing “moderate” drought conditions. That’s an improvement over last year at this time.

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