Companies keep a close eye on conditions as commercial rafting season opens

Lots of snow means big runoff and the potential for a good rafting season, but there's a thin line before too much snowmelt makes conditions unsafe.

The season on the Poudre River opens Thursday, after a winter where snowpack levels across Colorado reached 120 percent of average. The North Platte River basin reached 142 percent of normal and the South Platte reached 148 percent, according to the natural resources conservation service.

For rafting businesses, the hope is that the snowpack melts fast enough to keep the rivers flowing swiftly but not so fast that conditions become unsafe, as they did in 2011.

"The water level was great yesterday. It's only going to get higher and higher as the season goes on," said Pat Legel, of Wanderlust Adventure.

Typically, peak runoff usually starts in early June.

Last year, 37,214 customers rafted down the Poudre River. That business is considered average, but was also a major improvement over 2012 when the High Park Fire affected the area.

The fire left the river brown with soot and debris, but the flooding in September 2013 actually cleaned the shores and dislodged log jams left behind by the flames.

"It looks great. We've looked over the whole river. All the logs have been cleaned out, all the rocks and the debris from the small landslides," said Legel. "We're back to normal now and the river is cleaner than ever."

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