FORT COLLINS | A woman killed Wednesday while rafting the Poudre River was the third death on the swollen river in less than two weeks.
The river has been inundated by recent rains and spring runoff, The Coloradoan reported. In Fort Collins, the river was flowing at nearly five times its historical average for June 4, at 3,800 cubic feet per second.
Rapid snowmelt prompted by warmer-than-average temperatures is also blamed for the swollen river.
The Poudre River Canyon is a favorite whitewater rafting destination this time of year. A 25-year-old woman was thrown from a private raft on Wednesday afternoon, and was later found downstream floating face down. The victim was not immediately identified.
During Memorial Day weekend, a 14-year-old Greeley teen and his uncle died after the boy fell into the water and his uncle went in after him. The uncle was pulled from the river but died after being airlifted to a hospital, and the teen’s body was recovered approximately 8 miles downstream from the Ouzel picnic area where he fell in.
Including Wednesday’s death, 15 people have died as the result of incidents on the Poudre River’s course through Larimer County since 1997, records from the coroner’s office show.
In neighboring Weld County, the swollen Poudre has caused flood damage in 22 businesses and residential structures, and forecasters expect the river to stay above flood stage for at least a week. The Poudre River is running at 7.01 feet at the mouth of the canyon, nearing its minor flood stage.
“We’re continuing to assess the conditions of the river,” Larimer County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Nick Christensen said.
The sheriff’s office has not yet restricted access to the river this year, but Christensen advised rafters to be a part of commercial trips if they want to enjoy the waters. Rafting companies typically have larger rafts that can handle the high waters, along with well-trained staff and regimented safety protocols.
The raft the woman was thrown from was privately owned and not associated with a commercial rafting company, the sheriff’s office said. It was not immediately clear whether the rafting victim was wearing a life vest.