Jefferson County, like the rest of Colorado, reopened restaurants and loosened restrictions on people’s movement this week. But Clear Creek, one of its most popular draws, will remain closed.
Sheriff Jeff Shrader extended a ban on all swimming, tubing and kayaking in the creek that bisects the 580,000-resident county. That troubles the Front Range kayaking community that counts the Class II to Class V whitewater in Clear Creek as its backyard run.
“If any other stretch of river was closed anywhere in the state … if there were other recreation bans in that canyon, this would make sense. But this just seems so arbitrary,” said Hattie Johnson, the Southern Rockies stewardship director for American Whitewater. American Whitewater and Colorado Whitewater sent a letter to Shrader and Golden Police Chief Bill Kilpatrick in early April, shortly after the county issued a ban on all water activities in Clear Creek.
The letter expressed concern about the lack of an end date for the closure order, noting that Front Range kayakers paddle the creek every spring as snow melts and that the creek’s proximity to the Front Range allows them to follow state guidelines by recreating near their homes. “Social distancing from a kayak or raft on Clear Creek is just as reasonable as on a trail,” read the April 10 letter. “We have a concern that not defining an end or reassessment date of the closure will lead to an unnecessary continuation of this policy once other use restrictions have been lifted and the paddling season is well underway.”
Their fears were realized this week when the county extended the closure through June 25.
The extension essentially nixed the kayaking season on Clear Creek, which fades as flows ebb to a mere trickle in midsummer.
Other counties have asked for and received variances from the state health department, including ones that allow for river recreation on the Arkansas River in Chaffee County and the Eagle River in Eagle County.