Why Aren't You in Salida Right Now?
From rafting to fishing to hot springs, it's all about the water
Salida’s been discovered.
“In fact, the whole county’s been discovered,” says Salida Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lori Roberts. “We’re full all summer.”
Water underpins Salida’s tourism, she adds, from rafting to fishing to soaking in the hot springs. “It’s exponential,” Roberts says. “We’re serious about our river.”
Scott Peterson, marketing director for the Chaffee County Visitors Bureau, says lodging tax receipts increased 15 percent in 2018 and 50 percent since 2014.
“We definitely reap the benefits from having the best rafting in Colorado,” he touts. “It’s such a broad target audience. You don’t need any skills and you don’t need any equipment. Almost anybody can do it.”
Andy Neinas, owner of Cañon City-based Echo Canyon River Expeditions, has been involved in the Arkansas River rafting business since the mid-1980s. He describes locals looking at him as “an interloper” in his early years, then warming up after more tourists started coming in for trips on the river.
Echo Canyon now employs about 150 people in peak season. “We genuinely are an economic driver within the river communities,” Neinas says, “but our reach goes outside of that.” He points to Colorado Springs’ visitors adding a night or two to their stay to raft the Arkansas.
Neinas has expanded that reach by opening the 8 Mile Bar and Grill in 2010 then investing “north of $2 million” in 2017 in a cabin and “glamping” resort.
“It’s about diversification,” Neinas says. “I sell Colorado. That’s what I do. How lucky am I? I don’t sell rafting, I sell time with family and friends in Colorado.”