What It’s Like Rafting The Animas After The EPA and Gold King Mine

Rafting The Animas After Gold King Toxins

Rafting The Animas After Gold King Toxins

It’s been a matter of days since the Animas River opened back up to the public. In fact, the river wasn’t supposed to open for another day, but I guess Hickenlooper drinking the (treated) Animas River water was enough to reassure the public. Yes, the Animas has it’s green color back, but it’s far from normal.

 

Toxic Plumes Settled In the Eddies

All you have to do is look at the banks of the river to see that leftover mining waste¬†still lines every single rock. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the water, chilling in the eddies, all the minerals wait for someone to step off of a boat and into the silt. One step is all it takes to toss up a plume of that orangish-yellow shit that we’ve became all too accustomed too.

It’s not like normal silt either, that will murk up the water for a good couple of minutes before starting to settle and wash away. It seems like the orange plums want to linger around for much longer, reminding us that we’re still not done with the ordeal yet.

 

Nobody Wants To Go Rafting

And it’s not because the river is only running 350 CFS right now; it’s because everyone is afraid that simple skin-to-water contact will either give them lead poisoning, turn them into some mutated swamp beast or something just as sinister. I feel that everyone is over-reacting at this point. If they’re that sketched out about these minerals, perhaps all Upper Animas boaters should be worried everytime they run from Silverton down.

Not being able to get a trip together isn’t that huge of an issue, as the river is so low right now that aside from surfing Corner Pocket, most of the excitement is gone. At this point, it’s more of a social thing. There is an awesome boating community in Durango, and there is a time that you would see nothing but familiar and friendly faces behind the oars, rocking it down the river. Paradise used to be the party place for Durango’s youth and watchful tourists used to stop to take photos as people ran the Smelter stretch.

Now it’s desolate. You’re lucky to see a damn boat on the thing, and it’s not just because of the low water, summer wrapping up, or anything of that nature. No. It’s out of fear. Fear of unknown side effects from coming into contact with a toxic waterway. Fear that our government can’t be trusted when they say that the waters back to pre-event.

If it’s not out of fear, it’s because the water has lost its pristine beauty. Everywhere you look, the orange reminder litters the rocks like rings on a bathtub. You can’t find a single view of the river without this sad site, and it’ll remain this way until either heavy rains in the fall or next spring’s runoff can carry the rest of the pollutants to the next states, until finally it finds it’s resting place at the bottom of Lake Powell.

 

Mountain Waters Had A Whole Seven Customers

First day on the water, and the only other people I seen was Mountain Waters, a local outfitter. I believe I counted seven passengers; tourists that are braver than the locals, I guess. Two paddleboats and 3 duckies. It has to be a relief for the outfitters and the guides to be able to run the river again, but business isn’t what it should be. I haven’t seen so few outfitted trips on the river since peak water, when most outfitters were running from Santa Rita to Southern Ute Land as to avoid the redesigned Smelter stretch and the boat-flipper that is Ponderosa.

 

Property Owners Got Their Way: No Cars At Put-In

For those that don’t know, there’s been a ‘feud’ between the property owners by 32nd St and the boaters. For the record, boaters don’t trash the put-in. It’s the punk kids using the damn rope swing and just hanging around. Boaters party on the river, not at the put-in, especially when your friendly police man drives by the damn thing every hour or so.

One of the major disputes between the boaters and the property owners has been parking……Which the City of Durango thinks it fixed by eliminating the parking spots closest to the river, forcing boaters to park directly in front of the property owners houses instead of close to the river. Don’t know how anyone assumed that would help, but whatever.

I guess the property owners found out how to get their way. If they ever want to free up the parking spots, all the have to do is contaminate the entire stretch of the river and the boaters will have no reason to use the put-in and park on that street.

I’ve never seen the 32nd street put-in so empty. I believe there was a total of five vehicles there when I first pulled up. A sight that I have never seen. Usually you’re lucky to park on the street during the day, especially with the City of Durango eliminating half the parking in the first place.

 

Will There Be Turnout At The Boat Parade?

That’s the real question on my mind right now. I had a hard enough time finding paddlers that weren’t scared for their lives. It’s ironic, I think. We could get down the river without even getting wet (outside of the possible walking the boat across the shallows) but yet people are still scared of the exposure.

It’ll be interesting to see how many people actually show up to the event. Sure, low water level might factor into it, but fear of the water quality is going to be the real culprit. As a joke, everyone in my boat will be rafting with hazmat suites on.

 

Will Runoff Be Enough To Heal The River?

The final, and most important question; will the runoff be enough to wash away the rest of the toxins and finally heal our river? In the main channels, wherever there’s still current, the health of the water is so much better than in the eddies.

You know the flat water isn’t going to return to normal until the current picks up and the river starts moving. Even with next year’s peak, there’s still some sections that are going to have a tough time recovering. That’s the stretch in between Trimble and 32nd Street and the “lake” at Paradise Island right behind the fairgrounds and highschool.

These are slow stretches, filled with silt, even when the rivers peaking. I feel that there will be contaminants there for a year or two to come, even though it should get a little better each season.

Google+ Comments