14 September 2007

South East Whitewater Rafting Still Up

A news source out of Tennessee reports that whitewater rafting in the drought stricken region has not hurt the whitewater rafting industry this season. Many around the nations have heard about the drought in the South-East corner of the U.S. this summer, and normally this means bad news for the rafting outfitters.

However, many don't realize that a lot of the rivers in the regions are now dam controlled, with mandatory release dates and steady water levels. Like many other states and counties across the region, rafting and recreational outfitters have worked together with park services and governments to have a constant flow of water the whole season with release dates and minimum cfs flows.

The numbers from the Tennessee report give stats on the Ocoee River, which is one of the dam controlled rivers in the area. You would not expect there to be much variance there. The Chattooga River, however, has suffered a bit from the drought, and water levels are extremely low. So low that some outfitters are trying to steer customers towards other rivers just to maintain a fun experience.

The notable dam controlled rivers with whitewater rafting in the region that will maintain good water levels include: Ocoee River, Nantahala River, and Cheoh river, all of which are great river for short day trips.

10 August 2007

Deaths on the River

There have been a few stories in the past week or two alerting the nation of a couple of deaths during whitewater rafting trips. Five deaths already on the Arkansas River in Colorado, one recent death on a California river trip, and a few others around the country.

The question is, is this something to be concerned about? Well, it depends on how you look at the situation. Typically, when you hear of deaths on the river, it usually involves private boaters who take their own little tubes down a raging river and end up drowning. Commercial outfitters typically do not see many deaths. One news source from Colorado gave an historic breakdown for their commercial river rafting deaths for the past 5 years:

2000- 3 deaths
2001- 2 deaths
2002- none recorded
2003- none recorded
2004- none recorded
2005- 1 death
2006- 1 death
2007- ?

Nation-wide, the industry as a whole usually sees about 20-25 deaths a year on average, with some year hitting the 50 mark (2006). Overall, the numbers may be up this year, but when dealing with an extreme sport, it is always unpredictable. Mother nature is the deciding factor in these instances, and rivers are a tough force to reckon with.

In all though, it still remains a very safe, as long as you go with professional outfitters. Statistically, speaking less than half of all whitewater rafting deaths occur with a professional outfitter. They know the rivers, which spots to avoid, and are trained in rescue techniques to get you out of danger. Considering the number of rafters who go down rivers in any particular season (over 10 million annually), the fatality rate is extremely low (zero is always nice).

Moral of the story- dont be afraid to go rafting. Its still one of the greatest outdoor activities of all time!

25 July 2007

2007 Junior World Wildwater Championships

This year the Junior Wildwater Championships were held in Columbia. Participants from all around the world came together for the event, in efforts to take home the championship. A total of90 competitors from over 15 coutries joined in the competition and made their way down to Columbia.

Held July 16th through July 19th, the competition was held on the Saluda River, Columbia. Known as a wild and wide river, it boasts a tough race. So who actually took home the gold?

You can visit the junior wildwater championship website for mroe details, but here is the run-down:

C1- Men- Czech pretty much dominted the top positions in this sprint
K1 Womens- GBR took 1st, FRA 2nd, CZE 3rd, GBR 4-5

K1 Mens- FRA 1st and 2nd, CZE 3rd, CAN 4th

K1 Womens team- GBr 1st, GER 2nd, CZE 3rd

K1 Mens Team- CZE 1st, GER 2nd, SUI 3rd

Individual K1 and C1 second heats and sprints were mixed, but as you can see CZE had a sound domination of the overall competition. USA came in about 5 or 6th in many of these sprints. Better lick next year on the river!

River Rafting and Booze Still A Controversy

The use of alcohol on river rafting trips varies around the country and internationally. It has always been a debate as to whether alcohol should be allowed, if so, can customers bring their own, should it be limited to........ and so on.

The American River in California has seen a large impact with restrictions on alcohol use one the river. Right now, the government prohibits alcohol use on any river on holidays and holiday weekends. One report quoted an outfitter saying that because of the ban, the river is much quieter and more peaceful. The Fourth of July this year did not turn out so many fights and problems, which can be directly correlated to alcohol consumption on the river.

So with one successful story of how bans on alcohol have affected river patron, what other locations can follow suite? Larger rafting outfitters (Grand Canyon, Idaho, Glacier Park) with longer multi-day vacations allow guests to bring their own booze, but it is limited and controlled to a certain point (hopefully). But smaller operations and daily rental places may not have the control over what customers bring on the river.

Either way, I think it is still in every one's best interest to limit/prohibit alcohol consumption on the river.

21 June 2007

New whitewater rafting course opens

The end of May marked the first day of a new whitewater rafting option open in McHenry, MD. Adventure Sports Center International is one of the very few man-made river courses in the country. The USNWC (US national whitewater center) is one of the more recent additions.

I have been blogging about the many various plans around the country for these man made centers, and now they are starting to come into fruition. This particular center took over 3 years to complete, but many say it was worth the wait. The course of recirculating water is about 1/3 mile long, with plenty of real boulders taken directly from the mountains.

The Adventure Sports Center website provides details and information on the course.

18 May 2007

Mixed Reviews for Whitewater Rafting Levels

Looks like we are getting mixed reviews for the outlook of whitewater rafting around the country. Naturally, spring offers the best water runoff as the river catch the brunt of the early snow runoff. Colorado is experiencing great water levels (we all remember the horrible storms in Denver over the winter), perhaps the best they have seen in over a decade. You even have water agencies in Colorado and some parts of California letting out a little extra water now to prepare for the increased runoff. Other areas of California are lower than expected.

And for other parts? Southern Utah has average levels right now, but things are not looking so great for the rest of the season. Water levels on the Colorado River and Green River could see a 5 year low, bringing it back to the dry season three years ago.

The East coast is getting mixed results as well. North-East regions has levels as good as last year, some even running high. But travel down South towards the GA, TN region, and things are running in the 10% level of where they should be.

It will make for an interesting season across the country, and hopefully everyone will at least have an increase over last year.

01 May 2007

U.S. National Team Trials a Success

Held at the new U.S. National Whitewater Center and Park in North Carolina, this year's national team trials. It drew large crowds and over 14,000 people came to observe the trials and the paddling prowess of the nations best whitewater paddlers.

The official U.S. Canoe and Kayak website has all the official team and individual slalom results from the entire event.

As more and more whitewater rafting parks and water parks pop-up around the country, the sport of kayaking and whitewater rafting will only continue to grow. Already, major Central and East Coast cities are look to expand their water park centers and venues.

A North-Jersey.com story reports that the water parks in the Jersey, Wisconsin and New York areas will only continue to grow, as you have massive populations in these region who are looking for a weekend getaway or some type of adventurous vacation not across the country.

Although the whitewater rafting parks in these places do not compare with the real deal, it is still a parallel partnership that will benefit the entire river rafting industry.

13 April 2007

Largest Rafting Segment- Boomers

Adventure travel and whitewater rafting are at the top of the list for the baby boomer generation. Don't expect them to sit at home and spend their retirement. Most studies show that this market segment makes up a majority of travel now in the U.S.

A recent study of retirement communities conducted by Del Webb (a retirment community management firm) showed that the proffered activities patrons look for in a community now is the "active" lifestyle option. Hang-gliding, river rafting and other physical activities.

"Even adventure programming, such as hiking, climbing and river rafting are appealing to a much larger percentage of our residents," says a representative from Pulte Homes, working on various community projects.

Of course, it will be wise to tap into this valuable market. 77% of this community states that they will still work at least a few days a week, bringing in valuable cash and funds available for travel and leisure.

26 March 2007

Whitewater Outfitters Working With Government

River water levels are becoming less of a concern for some whitewater outfitters in various destinations across the country. Since river rafting relies heavily on water levels, most outfitters join efforts to influence reservoir and dam release schedules to match the busy rafting season.

This year, we are already seeing some new changes that will positively affect the rafting industry. In Northern California, the Sacramento Municipal Utility Distric has now cleared an important hurdle for everyone. A new pact calls for a guaranteed weekend release year-round to provide a daily source of whitewater along various points, including the popular American River. The Auburn Journal reports some of the facts and details of this new pact that many in the area are happy about. Not only will the new release add to the tourism and recreation in the area, but studies show that it will also help the wildlife habitat. Most of the time, these release schedules actually work better for everyone. A constant flow of water means and continual source of food, shelter and water for the local environment.

Across the nation a similar agreement has been reached along the Ocoeee River in Tennessee. The TVA and the Outfitters Association in the area are under contract to release 1200 cfs on scheduled dates through the spring and summer. Again, these dates give a regular water-flow schedule and make the rafting season more predictable.

23 February 2007

Northern Canada Launching Huge Marketing Campaign

The Yukon, Northern and Nunavut Territories have put together a massive advertising and marketing campaign in efforts to increase tourism and interest in Northern Canada. Contributions from area governments and the 2007 Canada Winter Games Host Society have helped to put together this large campaign. The Whitehorse Star online has a complete article outlining the details of the joint effort and those involved in the process.

Part of the campaign is a Pan-Northern adventure promotion on CTV's Canada AM. Winners can pick from one of three amazing trips to Northern Canada. Nahanni/Canadian River Expeditions is one of the companies giving away a river rafting trip on the Tatchenshini River in the Yukon. Other parts of the massive campaign include short video spots in southern Canada before Hollywood movies in theaters, commercials during popular television shows, print ad inserts and much more.

Rafting Canada is still a hidden gem in the world of adventure sports. The Northern Territories, as well as the Southern Territories, not only have great rivers for rafting, but the scenery and back country wildlife is unparalleled here in the stats. The Grand Canyon, and possibly Glacier National Park are the only real huge destinations that have similar allure.

Recently, Rafting America picked up new partners in Canada. REO Rafting Resort in British Columbia, Wilderness Tours in Quebec/Ontario and Canadian River Expeditions in the Northern Territories, B.C. and Alaska. Hopefully the additional exposure on Rafting America will prompt more interest in Canada for both Canadian residents and U.S. residents.

16 February 2007

Weather Channel Launches Extreme Sports Channel

The Weather Channel just launched a new broadband channel called Epic. Epic is dedicated to showing how weather conditions impact adventure/extreme sports such as whitewater rafting, surfing, skiing, mountain biking, etc. Epic is a video-centric website with clips and media, many of which provided by the famous Warren Miller Productions.

One of the good whitewater rafting clips is from Rafting America's member Peter Grubb at ROW Adventures on the Lochsa River in Idaho. It's a great video with some cool rafting flips and falls, and the Lochsa isn't exactly the best place to have that happen.

The idea behind Epic is to get people to participate by adding their own videos and experiences. I think it will be moderately successful from that angle. However, depending on how they market and present weather conditions and sports, I think it has great potential. In my opinion, you have two types of people who watch weather forecasts and conditions regularly.

One is business-related, for those professionals who travel regularly and are mainly concerned about flights and destination conditions. The other is the sports enthusiast- the skiers, hikers, rafters, climbers and outdoor junkies that keep and eye on mother nature.

This new Epic addition will be a great addition for the latter of the two target markets. Certainly they will tune into Epic over the normal Weather Channel is one highlights outdoor adventure related weather rather than general conditions.

31 January 2007

Zoar Outdoor Hosting '07 Wildwater Nationals

Rafting America partner and member Zoar Outdoor has been selected to host the 2007 USA Wildwater Nationals. The Nationals will be held on August 24-26, 2007. The Deerfield River is the selected site for the runs. Normally, the official website for USAWildwater has all the latest news, but this is a little ahead of the game.

The great part about holding the Nationals is that the Dryway section will receive water releases for the Saturday and Sunday rafting. The river is an ideal location for the runs, with mild class II and III rapids. Zoar has hosted nationals before, so they are familiar with the process and the events.

Zoar Outdoor offers river trips on the Deerfield River, Concord River, West River, and others. Zoar is also well known for their kayak clinics. The owner, Bruce, is a renown Olympic paddler and runs a very good kayak clinic on-site.

Waveyard- Water Sports Dream in Phoenix

Waveyard, the up-coming water sports resort and villa has its new website up- www.waveyard.com. The new park will have white water rafting, kayaking, surfing, scuba diving, beaches, shopping, retail stores, villas and more. Probably the largest and most unique of its kind, this boasts to be quite the resort/waterpark destination.

It will be interesting to see how the profitability pans out. Some of the other whitewater parks (focusing strictly on whitewater rafting/kayaking) are getting mixed results. This takes the concept to a whole new level. Location seems to be good. Product is right and price is yet to be determined (I would imagine from the look and feel that it would be expensive). The marketing and promotion will play a major role.

Other whitewater parks seem to focus on local markets for the day-to-day business. Not quite as wide a scope as normal whitewater rafting outfitters. The water sports resort would (I assume) try to pull from a much larger audience. The whitewater rafting and kayaking portion of the park would probably be less of an attraction with all the other activities. But fun nonetheless.

22 January 2007

New Film "Western Canada- Far and Wild" Ready

John Wilson, a well known wildlife documentary filmaker, recently showed his newest creation to a crowd in MI, reported a local paper. His new film about the backcountry of Canada feature Carabou in the Yukon, the Nahanni River and many other Canadian highlights.

John has done a number of Canadian wildlife pictures, and has won many awards for his great filography. It is true that Canada has some of the best wildlife and outback adventure desitnations in the world. White water rafting and/or kayaking in Canada is something that few people think about, but is perhaps one of the best ways to view the most scenic areas. Ther are plenty of places to visit when it comes to rafting in Canada. The most popular destinations are British Columbia and the Ottawa river. However, companies such as Nahanni/Canadian River Expeditions give full backcountry excursions through the Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories.

The film can be purchased from the Travel Video Store, currently listed for $19.95.

05 January 2007

Rafting America Ready to Launch Newsletter

White water rafting network Rafting America is set to launch a 2007 email newsletter campaign to rafters all across North and South America. The Newsletter will be sent seasonally, focusing on various rafting destinations across the Americas.

It will also have a calendar of events, special highlight sections and and deals happening through the various member outfitters. The newsletter will be the largest of its kind. Rafting America plans to send out over 2 million emails over the course of 2007.

Here is a sneak peak at email concepts for the new newsletter.