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The Chutes section of the south fork of the south Platte is closed to all. I am referring to a 1/3 of a mile of river where the actual chutes are. I have been teaching people to kayak through this section for years and have never been told to portage. I have spoken to rangers and police before and at that time I was told the signs were to keep kids from cliff jumping. Well all that changed yesterday when a Jefferson County Sheriff signaled that I should get out of my boat and come to the road. I was teaching a class of four and had them wait in the eddy at the halfway point through the chutes. The sheriff informed me that he could fine each of us $750 for paddling this section. After speaking to him for quite a while he let me take my group down the chute, but informed me if he sees me again he will fine me. He informed me that the chutes can be deadly at higher flows and that because it is dam controlled the level could change without a moments notice. I know there are a few sieves in the entry (always a good teaching tool) and a cave on the right that I have heard of people going through. All rivers have potential deadly sections. A lake for that matter can be deadly. I don’t know what to think, this is a great section of water for teaching and I would hate to lose it, but I do not need to go to jail because some officer tries to give me a ticket and I tell him my position. I am curious if anybody else has been fined or warned to stay off of this section.

A side note Dave the landowner, just up stream of the confluence, moved a little while back and died shortly after. Can some one say KARMA?

Lyle
 

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I am a little confused by your report.

Do you mean the top drop near the diversion structure is closed only. Or is that part closed and the five or six drops downstream of the structure are also closed? I thought this whole deal was designed as a play park.

Thanks.
 

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This sheriff sounds confused. If he thinks the Chutes are too dangerous to boat I wonder how he feels about Bailey. Perhaps someone knows a number to call to resolve this?
 

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This is crazy and it needs to be bumped to CWWA.

It sounds like a misguided sherrif. One person won't convince the sherrif but a professional organization can.

More than likely, even if the nut landowner is gone, others are probably pressuring the sherrif to close the river. Or, perhaps the deputy just was given bad instructions.

This is a great stretch of river that people have run for years. Got to protect it.
 

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Thanks for the heads up, Lyle. I will contact the access gurus in the CWWA and see if we can contact the Jefco Sherrifs office and straighten this out. Sounds strange to me...

If you have any more particular information (ie the sherrif's name / badge, time & date, etc.), or if anyone else has had this experience, please send an e-mail to:

[email protected]

Cheers!
Mark
 

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Frogger said:
A side note Dave the landowner, just up stream of the confluence, moved a little while back and died shortly after. Can some one say KARMA?

Lyle
"Ding-Dong, the witch is dead....."
 

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That thar sheriff is crazy! Let's see... river left is Jefferson County and river right is Douglas County. That boy's on the wrong side of the river. They even got out on the Douglas County side to talk with that thar Jefferson sheriff. Smellin' like somethin' aint right here. The Foxton run is in his jurisdtion and that's way crazier and dangerous that those dard Chutes. Duh.

We used to have woodsies up there all the time. Too many drunks were diving off the rocks and ending up severely injured and/or paralyzed so the DWB and county worked together and closed it off to partying.
 

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the chutes are fun...

The Chutes are really nothing more than a big waterslide. I've tubed them, kayaked them... good fun, but nothing to write home about
 

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hmm

The Cop must think he is making a judgement call. Thinking it will save lives be telling you that the chutes are closed down. Honestly there would have to be a law or ordince passed for him to enforce it. He is just trying to be the judicator which is not his job, take the ticket go to court and get it dissmissed. Remeber federal and state law is on our side not his.
 

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My wife and I got written up a few years ago at the chutes by a fat Douglas County sheriff's deputy. We were scouting from the left riverbank and he about had a stroke screaming at us to get over to the right bank where he was parked on the road.

He yelled at us and told us not to touch the riverbank and wrote us citations for trespassing. He was a rude SOB, but I could see his point because there were signs everywhere. However, I was teaching my wife to kayak and my first safety rule is don't paddle into something if you can't see it or if you don't know where your safety eddies are. He wasn't willing to listen to my position: it is ok to touch a private riverbank to scout or walk around a hazard and it is possible for logs to catch in the chutes and my wife was not good at eddying out so I wanted her to look for logs from the bank.

I don't remember the fine, but it was almost $1000 each and he said we'd have to pay it if the owner wanted to press the matter. We never got a summons and I never heard back, so we didn't pay any fines.

When he left he said, "I've gotta go. I got a call for another trespass by kayak down at the confluence." He was a loud redneck and I thought it would have been satisfying to stab him in the throat with my river knife but that would have horrified my wife and gotten me life in prison. He was not very careful about his personal safety. Apparently, he has been made complacent by the good manners of the kayakers he writes up.
 

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many moons ago there was a KMart raft/tubber accident on that section and some kids died. i don't remember when but I'd guess about 10 years ago. same type of thing that happened on Bear Creek that prompted the "no fun" falls signage.
 

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That is correct - in Colorado you cannot touch the banks or bed, period, if it is private land. In a civil suit, you could assert the defense of necessity to defend your trespass, though. However, most of access issues I read about are all related to criminal trespass (People v. Emmert, the infamous AG opinion, Sportsman's Paradise, etc.). In a criminal case, if you meet the elements of the crime, you'll be found guilty.

It sounds to me like the LEO involved was outside of his authority. IIRC, the signs at the Chutes only prohibit parking and swimming, no? In the absence of a statute prohibiting boating there, you can boat there. I guess if you swam out of your boat, you could be cited, though.

Seems like this isn't the first time there have been this type of encounters (where the cops try to enforce a law that doesn't exist or doesn't apply to the situation) with the LE guys out in the South Platte valley. I believe CRC2 says that the cops near SP took a "laissez-faire" attitude toward the harrasment of boaters there, stuff like dirt being shoveled onto boaters as they passed under bridges. Boy I love the West...
 

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I almost want to go run the SP from the chutes to the confluence over and over and over. We need a good BS ticket to get a court ruling in our favor and set the sheriff straight. ps... I hate redneck law enforcers.
 

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Who owns the land on the left bank of the chutes? I thought that the Denver Water Board owned almost all that land down there. The DWB doesn't seem to have a problem with people recreating on their land in other areas down there. I guess technically it is tresspassing, but it seems just like Corps of Engineer land, it is essentially public land. Any thoughts?
 

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OK, so here's the scoop. One of our club access gurus called the Jefferson County Sheriffs Office and talked to the deputy involved. Here is the e-mail that I got describing the conversation:

I called the Jeffco Sheriff and actually got a return call from the deputy involved, Deputy Sensano. Sensano says he has worked the Chutes area for 15 years. He said he was concerned because the kayakers were sitting in the pool and not boating through the chutes. When I asked him why that was a problem, he didn't really have an answer, except to say that "the waters are closed". Sensano told me he has no problem with kayakers floating through the chutes, but was concerned the kayakers were sitting in the pool of what he says is "closed water". When I pointed out to him that it is legal to float this water and there is a statutory provision that excludes kayakers and whitewater canoes from closure orders, he said he was aware that law. He then said that they were touching the banks. When I pressed him on this it turns out that the instructor may have put his hand on a streamside rock or may have been grabbing on to a streamside bush. Sensano said that he wasn't going to use that to justify a trespass charge. Everyone stayed in their kayaks. Sensano said that he is a kayaker and understands people can float the Union Chutes. He said the incident was "no big deal" to him. I told him from a kayaker's perspective it is always a concern when someone with a badge threatens criminal prosecution. It sounds like the other thing going on was that some people who wanted to swim were asking why the kayakers were allowed to be in the "closed water."
And here is the section of the Colorado Revised Statues which makes it clear that kayaks and whitewater canoes are exempt from this particular closure:

33-13-111. Authority to close waters.

Statute text

(1) (a) The board shall promulgate rules to prohibit the operation of vessels on any waters of the state and ordering the removal of vessels from any waters of the state when such operation constitutes or may constitute a hazard to human life or safety.

(b) For purposes of this subsection (1), "vessels" shall not include whitewater canoes and kayaks except in the case of:

(I) A state of disaster emergency pursuant to section 24-32-2104 or 24-32-2109, C.R.S.;

(II) Disaster relief efforts that are underway and that may include debris removal;

(III) An accident or other emergency occurs in or immediately adjacent to the water body;

(IV) Rescue efforts for victims are actively underway and such efforts would be hindered by additional waterway traffic; or

(V) Active construction or transportation projects authorized under state or federal law.

(2) Any parks and recreation officer or other peace officer as defined in section 33-10-102 has the authority to enforce the provisions of this section under the rules promulgated by the board.

(3) Any person who fails to obey an order issued under this section is guilty of a class 2 petty offense and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine of one hundred dollars.
So you cannot be fined for just floating in the eddy even though it is closed to swimming. However, if the deputy is standing right there, it might be prudent not to hang out in the eddy unless you have to for safety reasons. I haven't boated this section but from what I have read and heard the land on river left is private and has been a sore point in the past.
 

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Thanks much to the CWWA, President Mark Robbins, and the access gurus for the prompt action and getting to the bottom of this!

This is a good example of a reason to support the organization.
 

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access?

Just curious... If we can't touch the banks, how do we put in and take out? I was considering taking my fiance there to learn the ropes, but I don't want to get us fined! It would seem that the banks along the bicycle trail would be ok to take out at. I always see people hanging out along the banks there on the sand bars. Is this the river left bank we are talking about? Thanks for any info.
 
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