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Raft season rapidly approaches

SHADY COVE ' It's that time of year ' time to sit in soggy shorts and get whacked across the face by branches as the blisters erupt on your hands and you wish you had reapplied sunscreen.

That's right: It's rafting season.

Dennis Enriquez of Rapid Pleasure Raft Rental in Shady Cove has been in the business for 22 years and said he knows why people come back every year.

It's just because it's so much fun, he said. People are thrill-seekers by nature.

Whether you want to share a fun day with the young-uns, have water wars with your friends in inflatable single-person Tahitis, go on an outing with your church group or want a romantic guided moonlight float, the Upper Rogue section from Lost Creek Lake to Shady Cove offers enough riffles to keep it interesting but nothing more than a class-two rapid.

Memorial Day weekend is when a lot of businesses kick off their season, and after a wet winter water levels are closer to normal this year than last.

The river flow will probably be between 1,800 and 2,000 cubic feet per second through the summer, said Lost Creek assistant operations manager Steve Watkins, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that regulates the river's flow from Lost Creek Lake.

We were able to fill both reservoirs by the first of May, unlike last year, he said. The rafters will see normal flows in the river and the lake users will see better lake conditions than last year.

Watkins said last year the Corps dipped into the reserve to sustain flows and drew the lakes down.

Although hydrologists haven't yet released the specific water flow plans for the summer, he said he doesn't anticipate dipping into reserves this year.

This year at Lost Creek the boat ramps will be in service much longer than they were last year, he said.

Watkins said they try to maintain a healthy water temperature for fish.

Our releases are primarily for the fisheries, he said.

Basically, what's good for the fish is good for rafting, said Enriquez.

Dave Teitzel, a guide with Fishin Hole and Fly Shop and Rafting, said business success is more dependent on hot days than water level.

A lot of it is weather dependent. Once the weather starts reaching that 85 degrees, 90 degrees, people are looking to hit the water, he said, adding that July and August are the busy seasons for raft companies.

Most people on the average are fair-weather rafters, said Teitzel. It depends on what the weather man forecasts.

He said the mellow 10-mile float can be done in about three hours if rafters float straight through, or they can spend all day if they stop for picnics and rests.

It's the ideal family float, he said.

Shady Cove rafting companies, such as Rapid Pleasure Raft Rental, whose equipment is shown here, will find good business on the Rogue River regardless of river flow rates -- as long as the mercury is on their side.Mail Tribune file photo