After a second fatality on the same section of Clear Creek in four days, officials are stressing that tubing is prohibited west of Golden.
Jeffco Open Space has posted signage at Clear Creek Canyon Park trailheads, along the trail, and at water access points emphasizing that tubing is prohibited west of the Grant Terry Bridge.
The bridge, which is just west of the Gateway Trailhead, has a creek access point just underneath it. Tubing is allowed from that spot and anywhere east of it, into Golden.
All creek users should wear shoes, a helmet and life jacket, fire department and Jeffco Open Space officials stated at a July 6 press conference. They also emphasized that creek users should follow all posted signage and monitor the city's warning flag system.
"The canyon is beautiful ... (but) it can lull you into a false sense of security," Jeffco Open Space's Mary Ann Bonnell said. " ... No part of the river is guaranteed safe."
The first fatality on July 2 was on Clear Creek just west of U.S. 6's Tunnel Sometime in the afternoon, as four people were riding in an inflatable boat, it capsized.
Three self-extracted, but the fourth rafter was found unconscious, face-down in the water, Jeffco Sheriff's spokesperson Jacki Kelley said on July 5. An off-duty paramedic extracted the woman and started CPR. She was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Then, on July 6, the Sheriff's Office announced that a man had died following a tubing accident between Tunnel 1 and U.S. 6.
Around 12:30 p.m. July 5, four people tubing along the creek were ejected from their flotation devices. Two were able to self-extract. The third was rescued by firefighters after clinging to a rock in the middle of the creek, and the fourth was found unconscious and transported to the hospital, where he later died.
Kelley and Golden Fire Department officials said water levels in that section of Clear Creek are much lower than they were two or three weeks ago, which likely caused the accidents.
“As the water is lower in that canyon, the hazards in that water become closer to the surface,” Kelley said. “It’s much more dangerous because there’s less water.”
Unlike rafting or kayaking, those tubing have a harder time controlling their crafts and thus are more likely to get knocked into things, officials said.
Bonnell said Jeffco Open Space's rangers and volunteers will continue patrolling the area to ensure creek users' safety and enforce the closure.
One problem is the sheer volume of creek users, many of whom are tourists and are renting equipment from local shops. However, Bonnell said anyone renting should be receiving safety talks on where tubing's allowed and where it's prohibited near Golden.
With so much use over the Fourth of July weekend, Bonnell added, "We're asking people to take some personal responsibility, and listen to the safety talks."
For those who live locally, Bonnell and others asked that they obey the posted signage and closures, and don't set a bad example for visitors.