Unprecedented Safety Measures Make Arkansas River Best Option



Salida, CO – Safety may not be the first thing people think of when considering a whitewater rafting trip, but for professional guides, it is #1.

When it comes to outdoor adventures, “Nothing is without risk. AROA is constantly looking for ways to help make the river better and safer. We want to be prepared for any situation,” says Brandon Slate, President of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association (AROA). AROA is a trade organization made up of 30 river outfitters within the Arkansas Headwaters. 

AROA has implemented an additional layer of safety by placing AED’s at key points along the Arkansas River. AED is an acronym for “automated external defibrillator,” a high-tech life-saving medical device that delivers an electrical shock to re-establish the heart’s rhythm in the event of sudden cardiac arrest. The sophisticated device gives visual and even audible instructions to talk users through the process until medical professionals arrive.

This groundbreaking program started last year but will be further enhanced this season. They are placing 12 AEDs (up from eight last year) along 100 miles of the river to coincide with State Park backboard locations. 

“This is a model program. We are the first to do this to this extent,” says Slate. “There are buildings near rivers that have AED’s inside, but none that are set up in wilderness areas like we’re doing that are specifically designated for boaters to use. We’re hoping other rivers will follow this example.”

Encased in waterproof boxes, the AEDs are posted along the Arkansas River from Leadville to Canon City from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Notable partners are the State Parks and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Association (AHRA). Rangers deploy the devices, and regularly check and maintain them. The NRS also collaborated with this program by providing necessary additional equipment.

“Of course, we hope we never have to use the AED’s, but having them there is really important to overall river safety,” says Slate. All raft guides go through comprehensive in-house training to learn how to access and use the AEDs. 

 “At AROA, we are proud to be a leader in promoting safety on the river and throughout the river communities,” says Slate.  “AROA’s overall efforts on safety issues make the Arkansas River a great place to take your family and friends rafting this summer.”


Brandon Slate: AROA President 970-420-1348  [email protected]

Rob Williams: AROA Board Member 720-320-1464; [email protected]

Scott Peterson: Chaffee County Visitor’s Bureau 970-209-7975; [email protected]