Rolling on the river: Rafting season opens on the Truckee

Rafting companies launched their boats Wednesday with enough water flowing in the Truckee River to start their summer business.

The Federal Watermaster's Office opened up two gates of the dam to release 254 cubic feet of water per second Wednesday morning to leave enough room in the lake for snow runoff.

"The way the lake was rising and the amount of water we had left in the snowpack, we were anticipating (the release)," said watermaster Gary Stone.

Based on this month's runoff forecast from the Natural Resource Conservation Service and River Forecast Center, Stone said that they needed to make sure there was enough space in the lake for runoff and to ensure the lake's elevation did not exceed the legal limit of 6,229.1 feet.

Richard Courcier, co-owner of family-operated Mountain Air Rafting, said he has been in contact with the Watermaster's Office nearly every day recently. Courcier, whose company has a fleet of 125 rafts, said he was expecting an opening date this month.

"The big thing right now is there's so much snow, the lake's too full," Courcier said.

"People are showing up. It's a good test-run day - we're expecting a good weekend."

Truckee River Raft Co. manager Hayley Hudson said they were relieved to get the go-ahead.

"Very glad to have an early start," Hudson said. "(Now) we know the water is going to be flowing, so we're sending rafts."

The summer season for raft companies looks optimistic at this point, especially after the summer of 2005, when commercial companies missed out on their big Fourth of July weekend.

"(Last summer), we were strictly maintaining the Floriston rate," Stone said. "Some people have the wrong notion that we can release (water just) for rafting companies."

But this, year rafting companies and the watermaster say there may be too much flow, depending on the rate of runoff, rain and temperatures.

"There's a real possibility we'd have to increase (the release) to above possible rafting flows," Stone said.

And rafting companies also take that seriously.

"We don't like (sending rafts out at) over 500 to 600 cfs," Courcier said. "That is the limit for us."


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