Boaters float down the Uncompahgre River

Boaters float down the Uncompahgre River in July 2019. 

With surfable waves, multiple put-in/ take-out spots and free access, there is much to enjoy about the Montrose Water Sports Park.

With runoff gaining pace and summer fast approaching, residents don’t have to go far to enjoy a dip in the Uncompahgre River. The park, located in town, was created for everyone to enjoy, from waders, to river surfers and kayakers.

Since it’s opening there has been an increase in usage, Malloy said, who has been a kayaker for over 20 years. There has also been an increase in the popularity of stand up paddle boarding and river surfing.

“Our park, in the way the waves are, is very conducive to stand up paddle boarding and surfing with a standup paddleboard,” City Parks and Special Projects Superintendent John Malloy said. “You almost see more stand up paddleboarders down there than kayakers utilizing the wave features.”

The parks department has facilitated minor tweaks to the park which mainly includes maintenance to remove sediment out of pools, remove logs, etc. Each year the city tweaks to improve the wave features and for safety, Malloy said.

Riverbottom and Cerise parks, on a sunny day, will get hundreds of visitors, Malloy said.

The process to get the park running took at least five years, and there were several groups that collaborated to make this a reality. The City of Montrose, Montrose City Council, Montrose Recreation District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Friends of the River Uncompahgre were all involved, Malloy said.

To bring about the Montrose Water Sports Park, the City of Montrose partnered with the Montrose Recreation District, and was awarded a $259,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). The city and MRD also pitched in other funds to cover the cost. The entire cost of the project was $1.1 million, Malloy said.

The Montrose Water Sports Park is 1,100 feet long, 4,500 tons of rock were used in the construction, and 6,000 cubic yards of material were removed from the river. Under each of the six drops created there is a concrete structure underneath, each one weighing 200,000 pounds.

Rocks were strategically placed to divert the water over the drops. There was also rock brought in for the construction of the terraced spectating area. The water sports park is accessible by ADA standards, and there are two put in and pull out spots at the park.

There may be more planned for the future.

There is a Riverbotton Master Plan that was created by the city featuring additions that could be made in the future. However, nothing has been budgeted, and no formal plans have been made to implement that, Malloy said.

“I think the long term plan is to have accessibility to Taviwach Park,” Malloy said. “You can run the river all the way there, and we have a ramp down at Taviwach where people can take out. The river down below west Main is very meandering and there’s a lot more Russian olives that have either fallen in or are on the banks; and so it’s a bit more hazardous down there. So you just have to be more aware, more skilled, to float down through that section.”

This past spring, the Colorado Youth Corps came in to partner with the city to remove Russian olive and other invasive plants. This is something the city would like to continue, to open up that area and replace native plants, Malloy said.

The Montrose Water Sports Park took the place of an irrigation diversion, so the park made things a bit safer. Increasing the recreation potential on the river makes it more of a destination.

The diversion from the Gunnison Tunnel in the Uncompahgre lasts from March through November. When other rivers don’t have good flows or are dried up, there is still a consistent flow at the park, Malloy said.

“You’re just seeing every year, more and more people using the park,” Malloy said.

Safety

Activities that are more popular today weren’t always as popular. There has always been tubing, and in those cases many people do not use personal floatation device, which is not safe, Malloy said.

“As time goes on the community becomes more aware of the hazards of the river,” Malloy said. “It looks tame at times and yeah you can stand up but that’s not necessarily the safety thing to do. Whenever I talk to the paper, or with FUNCFest we really try to create opportunities for the public to learn about water safety and how to do it right.”

Some safety concerns could include a loose rope in the water or rope across the river, which people could get caught on. Another concern comes when people stand up, risking trapping your foot. The force of the river could push you over, and you could drown.

People should always wear proper gear while in the water. The main cause of fatalities in water sports is people not having a floatation or not wearing it properly, Malloy said.

Information on how to be safe in the water can be found online as well as at the water sports outfitters in town. There are some companies that do swift water training as well.

Monica Garcia is the news editor at the Montrose Daily Press.

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