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Water access limited for multiple Colorado creeks due to safety concerns

Due to safety concerns that include rising water levels and fast currents, access to many popular Colorado waterways is being limited temporarily.


Access to multiple Colorado creeks is being limited due to safety concerns that include rising water levels and fast currents.

The following waterways are under temporary restrictions:

  • Clear Creek in Jefferson County
  • North Saint Vrain Creek and Saint Vrain Creek in Boulder County
  • Poudre River in Larimer County

Jefferson County

Jefferson County officials announced waterway activates on Clear Creek will be limited until water levels decrease.

Beginning Wednesday, June 9 at noon, prohibited activities will include all single-chambered air inflated devices such as belly boats, inner tubes and single chambered rafts, as well as “body-surfers” and swimming.

Officials said the reasons for the decision include the following:

  • Water flows consistently measuring over 900 cubic feed a second, which is expected to rise as heavy snowpack melt continues. Anything over 800 cubic feet per second is dangerous inexperienced swimmers.

  • Clear Creek is a Type IV water area, meaning there is increased public risk due to water temperature, blasted rock, undercut rocks, potential strainers and other safety concerns.

  • Water height is increasing and will continue to increase with melting snowpack.

Kayaks, whitewater canoes and multi-chambered professionally guided rafts, river boards and stand-up paddle boards are exempt but urged to practice extreme caution due to safety concerns surrounding swift-moving water and floating debris.

All authorized users and occupants must use a Coast Guard-approved paddling life jacket and a water-use deigned helmet.

The restrictions apply to Clear Creek in unincorporated Jefferson County and the City of Golden, including Vanover Park.

Violaters may be issued a summons for a class 2 petty offense, punishable with a fine of $100.

"The water can be deceiving," said Golden Deputy Police Chief Joe Harvey. "You can be looking at it and saying, 'wow, that's not dangerous. I can get across it'. And then you when you put your foot in it, you feel the force that's being pushed down upon you. It is amazing how quickly it can take to take you out of the picture."

Harvey said there have been two incidents this year where they have had to perform water rescues, which takes resources. 

"They have to put up water rescue lines. They have to get into cold water gear, and they have to be very methodical about moving across this water in order to perform the rescue," he said. "And the faster the water moves, the higher the water is, the more dangerous that operation becomes."

He added that the water temperature is also taken into account when it comes to implementing temporary restrictions. 

"The water's been in the low 40s and it will probably continue to get cold as more runoff  comes down," he said. 

Overall, Harvey said safety is a priority. 

"I think members of the public might think that we do this as a control faction. We really don't," he said. "We want people to be able to enjoy the natural water resources that Colorado has to offer. At some level you do have to accept your own risk for swimming. But when all of those factors come together and the risk becomes too high, that's when we have to say enough is enough."

Credit: Bryan Wendland
A sign shows that Tubing is banned on part of the North Saint Vrain and Saint Vrain Creeks.

Boulder County

Boulder County officials announced the North Saint Vrain Creek and Saint Vrain Creek will be closed through Lyons to tubing and single-chamber flotation devices.

The closure will take effect Wednesday, June 9 at 4 p.m. and will go through Friday, June 25 at noon, according to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office (BCSO).

The closure prohibits watercraft such as single-chamber rafts, single-chamber belly boats and inner tubes from floating the creek. There is a specific exemption for kayaks and white-water canoes, which are permitted, however kayakers are strongly encouraged to observe caution.

Sheriff's deputies will be posting notices Wednesday morning, advising recreationists of the closure.

The closure encompasses the North Saint Vrain Creek and Saint Vrain Creek from Apple Valley Road/ County Road 71 (upper Apple Valley Road) to North Foothills Highway including through the Town of Lyons.

BCSO said the closure was made by Sheriff Joe Pelle in consultation with Lyons Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen, Sheriff’s Office Administrative Lyons Police Chief Sergeant Bill Crist and Lyons Fire Chief Peter Zick.

“Probably in the last month we’ve been up here 3 or 4 times at least for people that have gone off their tubes and got stuck on the other side of the river," Fire Chief Zick said Wednesday. 

He also explained that typically they'll implement restrictions when the water is flowing around 750-775 CFS. 

“When we get really heavy rains or when we get a good spring melt off and we get the river that runs high, it’s running about 1,000 CFS right now," Zick said.

Overall, Zick said the restrictions are in place for a reason. 

“We don’t want anyone to get hurt, we don’t want a disaster to strike, so please be aware of the ban and don’t get on on a tube," he said.  

The partial-use restriction is being ordered due to the significant rainfall and spring runoff experienced in Boulder County in recent days and weeks, said BCSO.

Any person who fails to obey an order issued under this section, may be guilty of a class two petty offense and subject to a fine of up to $50.

Credit: Bryan Wendland
The North Saint Vrain Creek Wednesday.

Larimer County

Fort Collins Police Services announced on Tuesday, June 8 that access to Poudre River is being limited to discouraging boating and floating in dangerous sections of the waterway.

Access to the Poudre River shoreline with the the natural areas is closed between Norths Shields River Access and Salyer Nature area, and Legacy Park and North Shields River Access parking lots have been closed to traffic.

Poudre Fire Authority said 18 people have already been rescued this season, and river conditions are expected to remain hazardous for several weeks as spring runoff continues, and there is added concern due to debris from the Cameron Peak Fire last summer.

"I think we are missing some people that that aren't, for whatever reason, hearing the message or maybe they don't quite understand the true power of the river," said Poudre Fire Authority Public Information Officer, Annie Bierbower. "So it is hot outside. It's beautiful. People want to play in the Poudre ... like I said before, [it's] a community treasure. But I do think some people don't fully realize how strong the water is and the hazards that present themselves right now. So we don't recommend recreating on the river right now. We just really recommend people wait until better flow levels. So there will be a time and a place where recreating on the river can be safer for everyone."

RELATED: Fort Collins restricts Poudre River access to 'reduce unsafe activities'

RELATED: High-flowing rivers lead to rescues on the Poudre River in Fort Collins

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