Golden and Boulder Tubing Bans Lifted, but River/Reservoir Death Count Hits 13

Clear Creek through Golden is now open for tubing again.
Clear Creek through Golden is now open for tubing again. YouTube
Today, July 12, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office ended all restrictions for activities on Clear Creek, including limits put in place through Golden circa July 1. Likewise, the Boulder Police Department has removed a tubing ban on Boulder Creek, which resulted in the postponement of the city's annual Tube to Work Day.

But that doesn't mean the risk of high waters related to runoff from a snowpack estimated at more than 600 percent above the median is over. According to information compiled from assorted media sources, including the Colorado Sun, at least thirteen people have died or are missing in incidents that took place on rivers and reservoirs in the state in June and July to date.

The Clear Creek restrictions had extended from the western border of State Highway 119 in Jefferson County eastward through Golden's city limits to Vanover Park. But in announcing the change, the Jeffco sheriff's office emphasized that "although the risk has diminished, the flow rate is still at the high end of the average annual rate, and all users are encouraged to observe extreme caution due to safety concerns surrounding swift moving water and floating debris."

This warning is similar to one shared by Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle and Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa when they announced on July 8 that tubing on Boulder Creek could begin again. "We still encourage people recreating on all bodies of water to exercise caution and wear personal protection equipment including a life jacket," their joint announcement stresses.

That makes sense given the tragedies that have taken place across the state during the past six weeks. On June 6, Nikolay Pezhemskiy died after his raft flipped in the Eagle River. On June 10, Sameer Prasla, 42, perished under similar circumstances on the Arkansas River. On June 15, Roberta Sophia Rodriguez, 38, was swept away by the Rio Grande River; her body was recovered more than a week later. On June 20, Amy Kirsch, 43, lost her life while on a commercial rafting trip on the San Juan River. On June 21, Sarah Schultz, 31, couldn't be revived after a stand-up paddle-boarding accident on the Gunnison River. That same day, Petra Lachance, 65, died while kayaking in Blue Mesa Reservoir, near the Gunnison.

Six days later, on June 27, Zack Jones, 33, disappeared after a rafting accident on the Rio Grande — and Tessie Strickland, 64, vanished into Pole Creek, near the Rio Grande, on the same day while she and her husband tried to cross the waters in their vehicle. On June 29, Michael James, 40, drowned in the Arkansas, On June 30, David Smith, 57, was declared missing after a rafting accident on the Poudre River. On July 1, a fifty-year-old man died after rafting on Clear Creek. On July 4, Zhaoxia Hu, 20, could not be saved after she sank into Jackson Lake while jet-skiing, and Matthew Spates, 26, suffered the same fate on the Poudre. On July 5, a woman was killed near a South Platte River dam, and Douglas Maas, 57, became the third person of the season to be claimed by the Arkansas. (Commercial rafting along the stretch of the river through the Royal Gorge was temporarily prohibited for a time, but that policy was reversed this week.) And on July 6, Anthony Vasi, 47, died while rafting on the Green River through Dinosaur National Monument.

By the way, Boulder's Tube to Work Day is now scheduled to get under way at 8 a.m. on Friday, July 19. Life jackets and wetsuits are strongly recommended to be worn beneath business attire, and mandatory items include helmets, closed-toe footwear and waivers.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts