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More room to roll

Kayakers get new river obstacle

Avi Salzman

— As kayaking holes go, Steamboat has everything from A to Z. Once the construction of a new kayaking play hole next to the Depot is completed, the city will get the chance to name and play in a new hole.

The new hole is part of the city’s ongoing attempt to improve the downstream portion of the Yampa River as it studies and restricts the upstream portion. Since the Steamboat Springs City Council banned commercial tubing on the upper stretch of the Yampa for one year this February, it has attempted to make the lower stretch below 13th Street somewhat more user-friendly.

This new $15,000 hole was financed by the city out of river user fees and by the Friends of the Yampa organization in equal amounts.

It is part of a four-phase modification plan that the city has already begun, completing phase one this fall for $30,000. The first phase concentrated on an area between the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge and the Stockbridge Center, a few hundred yards from the Stock Bridge. The modifications have consisted of placing boulders in the river and diverting the river to better channelize it.

Money for the next phase was deleted from next year’s city budget, but could be put back in as early as next spring.

The new play hole, like the A-hole and the Z-hole, will allow kayakers to perform river rodeo tricks in the wave created in the hole by water rushing over large rocks. Kayaks in the holes tip vertically and swing around in loops, like a slightly-insane expert bull-rider.

“All the younger people are really into this hole-riding,” said Greg Henion of Friends of the Yampa.

On Thursday, a track hoe piloted by an ex-Olympian ski jumper moved huge boulders donated by the Sheraton and Native Excavating into place in front of the hole after diverting the river around the play area. The engineers diverted the river so the water level would be low enough to keep sediment from traveling downriver, said city Open Space Supervisor Mike Neumann. The city got a “dredge and fill” permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to undergo the work.

The site was intentionally messy on Thursday, with rocks strewn about and muddy puddles of water trembling as the hoe rolled awkwardly across the streambed.

The scene prompted one kayaker to note that he thinks locals himself included are willing to put aside their moral feelings about ecology when recreation is at stake.

Dave Gardner, an avid local kayaker who uses his lunch hour in the spring to ride the river rodeo, said the fish habitat was not looking particularly healthy at the moment.

Still, he could not suppress his glee at the recreational opportunities afforded by the new hole.

“I guess we put our morals on hold sometimes,” he said.

The hole, of course, will not always resemble a watery battleground.

The new modifications, in fact, will be better for fish and other aquatic life once the hole is there, said Chris Arniss, an employee with the city’s parks and recreation department.

The holes are good habitats for trout and other fish.

“It’s only a temporary disturbance. In a week you won’t be able to tell the difference,” Neumann said.

But what will the community name it?

“I’m sure it will earn a nickname somehow,” Arniss said.


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