Pueblo authorities prohibit canoes, kayaks, tubes on Arkansas River due to fast-flowing, high water

Photo courtesy of Brett Mach.
A flooded bike and pedestrian trail along the Arkansas River in Pueblo, just east of City Park, on Monday, June 10, 2024.

Starting Tuesday, Pueblo authorities are restricting water activities on the Arkansas River — including canoeing, kayaking, and tubing — due to dangerously fast-flowing and high water. 

The Pueblo Fire Department, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado Parks and Wildlife issued the restrictions.

The restricted areas of the river stretch from the Pueblo Dam to the Otero County line.

In addition to restrictions on the use of canoes, kayaks, tubes and other inflatables, authorities said recreational swimming, even with a life vest, is also prohibited.

Those who violate the restrictions will be cited. Officials said they would monitor the river and coordinate its reopening when the water flows return to a safe level. 

Officials cited increased rainfall and winter snowmelt for creating hazardous situations on the river as summer begins.

“The tailwaters below the Lake Pueblo dam are a popular place to fish and tube,” said Joe Stadterman, CPW’s park manager at Lake Pueblo State Park. “While high flows such as these can be attractive to some recreationists, the current conditions are just too dangerous to allow the river to stay open.” 

Earlier today, a flood warning was issued for the Arkansas River above Pueblo and other Colorado rivers have had similar warnings issued. 

Minor flooding is expected downstream from the Pueblo Dam, officials said. The flood stage this morning was 7.8 feet with the river expected to rise to 8.1 feet with more rises possible later.

The Arkansas River is flowing at just over 6,000 cubic feet per second as of June 10, about four times the normal flow, according to authorities.

The public should stay away from the banks of the river and streams as saturated banks can break away. In addition to the flow of the river, the cold temperature of the water, much of which is coming from the snowmelt in the mountains, poses a risk to individuals, officials said.

Last week, a man died while kayaking down the Arkansas River in Chaffee County where waters were running high due to spring runoff from snowmelt. In Salida, officials have issued a “high-water caution” for the Scout Wave feature on the Arkansas River.