Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Raftsmen battered ... Flood ravaged Rio Grande rafting

Published:Thursday | April 28, 2016 | 2:57 PMGareth Davis Snr
A raft captain constructs a new raft.
President of the Raft Vendors' Association, Lawrence Chisholm

Portland’s premiere tourist attraction, Rio Grande Rafting, has been plunged into further turmoil following last week's heavy rains, which destroyed approximately 80 per cent of the rafting vessels owned by Raft Captains.

The bamboo fashioned rafting vessels, which are docked along the beach area of the Rio Grande, and in some instances along the lawns of the nearby terminal building, were washed away during more than four days of torrential rainfall.

The nearby Rio Grande, which was in spate — cleared everything in its path including livestock, banana trees, yams, cabbage, dasheen, and other farm produce, along with a majority of the rafting vessels.   

“Our livelihood is now under serious threat," said Lawrence Chisholm president of the Rafts Captain Association.

“We lost about 80 per cent of our rafting vessels, which was washed away on April 21 by the Rio Grande. The river is where we earn our livelihood, but it can also be very unkind to us, especially during heavy rainfall. We have 77 raft captains, and each of them owned at least two rafts. We are appealing to the tourism minister for help, as we are now faced with a crisis situation," he added.

The Gleaner visited the Berrydale Raft stand yesterday and observed fewer than 30 rafting vessels, which is a far cry from the approximately 150 that were spotted in January during a visit to that area.

Yesterday a group of tourists also showed to go rafting amid the strong current and muddy water, which is compounded by spate of the Rio Grande.

Chisholm noted that their greatest fear at this time is that in the event that there is a sudden influx of tourists, there is no way that they would be able to provide the required service, as their fleet of rafting vessels is severely depleted. 

“Rafting is not only our livelihood, but it is a viable tourism product, which is renowned internationally. Tourism started in this parish and on this river, where former Hollywood legend Errol Flynn was among the first to sail along its crystal clear waters. All we are asking for is some assistance to rebuild our rafting vessels. It costs approximately $6,000 to construct a raft," Chisholm further said.