GARNA hosts interpretive float trip

When the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association offers a guided rafting trip with two naturalists along a popular stretch of the Arkansas River, spaces fill up fast. That is exactly what happened ahead of this year’s Awareness on the Ark float trip. Only a wait list remains.

A fully guided trip by Independent Whitewater will lead two rafts with interpreters Eric Heltzel and Dominique Naccarato filling in a few lucky participants on environmental issues facing the Arkansas Valley watershed while drifting down the river. Boats set up with a stern rig will launch from Independent Whitewater near Big Bend Recreation Area and float almost 7 miles into downtown Salida. Stops along the way will give guides an opportunity to engage with participants.

Heltzel, who is trained in geography, has spent the last 30 years teaching environmental sciences, geography, meteorology and geomorphology. He is a river guide for Independent Whitewater and has a deep understanding of hydrology. Heltzel also serves on the board of directors of the Collegiate Peaks Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Naccarato is a Salida native who has guided on the Arkansas River for 13 years and has taught middle and high school science for seven years. She holds a master’s degree in environmental management and is now the GARNA development director, where she focuses on the natural history through the lens of human impact.

The Awareness on the Ark float will begin at 8 a.m. on Aug. 9 from Independent Whitewater. At this time all spaces have been accounted for, but anyone interested in the trip can get on a wait list by emailing

The Greater Arkansas River Nature Association is a conservation and educational nonprofit organization that promotes the unique natural, cultural and historic resources of the Arkansas River region. A monthly email newsletter by GARNA details upcoming events, and members are offered discounts for a wide variety of GARNA-sponsored interpretive outings.

Upcoming outings hosted by GARNA in the month of August include guided birding hikes at Frantz Lake and Hekla Junction as well as a centennial celebration for the historic Ohio and Colorado Smelting Co. smokestack in Smeltertown.

A detailed calendar of events can be found at