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Northwest Rafting Outfits Surge, Face Challenges With This Year's 'Epic' Whitewater

Some Northwest rafting companies are seeing a flood of business with this year’s ample river flows. But that high water also comes with challenges.

Some companies say they are up 25 percent. But others are down, because the rivers they run are too high to run and they’ve had to cancel.

Justine Bryant, co-owner of Wildwater River Guides outside of Leavenworth, Washington, said this year’s spring melt has been epic.

“The river is more swift, the river is moving at a quicker pace,” she said.

Her company follows whitewater across six rivers in Washington state. They haven’t seen it like this for a decade.

More water means a fun ride for customers: More splashy water in the boat and more power in the rapids. But some rafting companies have had to re-direct trips. And some companies have even put trips on hold because the water is just too high.

“Some of those hydraulics, some of those holes you can also call them, become more dangerous,” Bryant said.

Bryant said the Northwest’s cool spring has kept more snow in the mountains—meaning an even longer, splashier season for the rafting outfits this year.

She expects to run some rivers, like the Wenatchee, clear through August.

The Washington State Department of Health reminds people to use caution in high river conditions. Spring river water is cold, fast and can overwhelm even experienced recreationalists and swimmers.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.