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Drought Could Mean Less Whitewater, More Demand From Rafters

Anna King
Northwest News Network
Christopher Smith with Sun Country Tours says he knows whitewater guides who may not find work because of drought.

From Wenatchee, Washington, to Bend, Oregon, whitewater rafting guides are preparing for a flood of business as school lets out. But this year’s low snowpack could mean less whitewater and more demand for trips.

Low snowpack won’t dry up whitewater, but it does mean the killer season will be shorter. And later this summer there will be more boulders or submerged snags to avoid.

Christopher Smith with Sun Country Tours said he feels fortunate to still be able to offer tours on three Oregon rivers for most of the season and - and to offer other sports like paddle boarding. He says rafting guides in California are finding different jobs altogether this season.

"You know, I have acquaintances that are definitely out of work this summer and are possibly looking into the future thinking this is no longer a viable job," Smith said.

That could mean more rafters for Smith from California. But more than drought, he said, this summer’s business will all hinge on how many wildfires hit the region.

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.