One year ago this week, we published an editorial that questioned the wisdom of the city’s work on the Durango Whitewater Park. That project produced a revised and challenging entrance to the park’s featured run of rapids on the Animas River. The change was made all the more dramatic – and for some more traumatic – by the early onset of high water during last year’s runoff, and by a separate project needed to direct more water to the water treatment plant’s intake just upstream of the park.
In May 2018, we are happy to see that some additional riverscaping, and a full year to watch how the water behaves in that stretch at a variety of water levels, has resulted in the run that was envisioned when plans for an enhanced water park were announced in 2014. The river at Santa Rita is still rowdy, still challenging and provides a great venue for whitewater competitions. And it will provide plenty of thrills for local boaters and our out-of-town visitors. In fact, it closely resembles the run of last year, but with some needed polish. Now, it’s much more likely to let boaters finish the run with the “sunny side up.”
To see how boaters handle the revised run at the river’s highest water levels will have to wait, however, as winter’s scant snowpack will not deliver the flows we witnessed last year. While a drought year is not good news to anyone in the Four Corners, this may be one instance where it is almost palatable. For guides and other whitewater addicts, this should be the summer to learn this stretch of the river well. That will help in coming years when the runoff from heavy snows make the rapids more formidable.
So far this season, the verdict on the improvements from kayakers, private boaters and commercial rafters has been thumbs up. We would like to extend that gesture to the city, and to Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz, for a job – or series of jobs – well done.