Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Plans are underway to perform much-needed upgrades and maintenance on the extremely popular Pocket Wave in Buena Vista’s famous Whitewater Park.

Stretching more than half a mile, the Buena Vista (BV) Whitewater Park is the longest in Colorado and contains five in-stream features making it the center of outdoor and river activities in BV.

“The BV River Park is the centerpiece of all things outdoor recreation drawing thousands of visitors each year down to the river”, BV Recreations Special Projects Manager Earl Richmond explained in a history/promotional video for the Pocket Wave 2.0.

The new plans will focus on upgrading the wave so it functions more consistently at different flow levels offering river enthusiasts more opportunities to surf the wave at all skill levels.

With a total project cost of around $168,000 Richmond and the BV Recreation Department have been hard at work gathering support for the Pocket Wave 2.0 renovations. According to Richmond, $20,000 has been donated by the community, more than $80,000 by local businesses, and $40,000 by the Town of Buena Vista.

Recreation Supervisor Shane Basford explained at a recent BV Trustee meeting that $70,000 was donated by CKS Main Street and $10,000 by Currents Construction to help fund the Pocket Wave 2.0 renovation.

More than 20 Years of Wave Action

The Buena Vista Whitewater Park is a popular recreation spot, but wait times have increased and improvements are planned. Courtesy photo.

The BV River Park began in 2001 when its first upstream feature was created by Mike Harvey and Recreation Engineering & Planning (REP). In 2006, the Staircase Wave was built specifically for wave surfers and kayakers. The feature quickly became a focal point of the Whitewater Park. But soon it began to get crowded, and wait times to enter it were getting longer.

In 2014 the decision was made to construct a second wave further downstream and call it the Pocket Wave. The Pocket Wave provided wave surfers with options and immediately started thinning out the crowds while giving more people the opportunity to experience a fantastic wave.

At very high flow levels the Pocket Wave shines; however, it drastically loses its performance at midrange (500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 1,500 cfs) flow levels. The wave is no longer enjoyable to try and surf, once river flow levels drop below 1600 cfs; which happens when the Fry-Ark agreement that provides water diversion into the Arkansas River to maintain flow rates during July and August ends each year. This program, known as the Voluntary Flow Management Program (VFMP)  delivered 10,000 acre-feet into the Arkansas River this summer.

Given the Colorado drought conditions, no one knows what will happen to that program in 2023 and beyond. But the prospect of a reduced flow window for enjoying this wave drastically reduces its potential, making year-round recreating difficult. Currently, the Pocket Wave no longer functions as originally designed, but new plans are calling for a complete remodel of the wave to better serve river enthusiasts year-round, and at lower flow rates.

Basford explained that as of September 2022, the BV Recreation Department has raised around $156,500 and will be applying for an Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) grant this fall to help bridge the remaining financial gap for the project. With an estimated completion date in spring 2023, the project will take an estimated four to six weeks to complete.

Permits, planning, designs, and construction contracts have been already finalized; however, renovations cannot begin until the project is fully funded. Once funding is secured, the town will be able to officially enter into a Professional Service Agreement with their preferred contractor.

Public Support of Pocket Wave 2.0

Richmond and the BV Recreation Department have also created a Pocket Wave 2.0 GoFundMe campaign in hopes of raising an additional $20,000 to help complete the project. Currently, the campaign has raised half of the $20,000 goal.

The Pocketwave 2.0 is expected to include wave action for all skill levels. Courtesy photo.

Additional fundraising efforts over the past summer included events such as Paddlefest and outdoor concerts in downtown Buena Vista.

According to Richmond, winter offers an optimal time for this project because flow levels and river activity are both usually very low, allowing better conditions for construction and maintenance.

Despite what some might think, these renovations seek to provide a more accessible wave, not a more aggressive one.

“It’s the opposite of making it gnarly, it’s about making it friendly”, explained Richmond.

As town residents know, over the years, the whitewater surfing and kayaking community has been booming in BV. Thanks to people like Richmond and local companies like CKS, BV has become what many call “the perfect town” to learn and grow your passions for river surfing, kayaking, and all river activities and sports.

While excitement for the Pocket Wave 2.0 is already brimming in town, supporters say there is still a lot of fundraising left to do. For those interested in supporting the Pocket Wave 2.0 there are three ways you are able to donate:

  1. Contribute to the Pocket Wave 2.0 GoFundMe
  2. Contribute at the BV Recreations Department’s Venmo: @BVREC
  3. Write and mail a check to the Town of Buena Vista earmarked Pocket Wave 2.0

Featured image: The Buena Vista Whitewater Park is now the longest in Colorado and contains five in-stream features making it the center of outdoor and river activities in BV.  Courtesy photo.