Colorado-based contractor, Whinnery Construction is employing Volvo excavators to navigate the Animas River, ensuring safe passageway for whitewater enthusiasts.

Nestled in the Animas River Valley, surrounded by the San Juan Mountains is the city of Durango, Colorado. The region’s evergreen forests and babbling creeks are adored by locals and nature enthusiasts alike; attracting a steady flow of holidaymakers throughout the year.

The 203km Animas River runs through the bustling city of Durango and is one of the top whitewater stretches in the US, with flow rates ranging from 200- 6,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). The river is also recognised by Colorado wildlife officials as a Gold Medal Water. The status is reserved for waters that consistently support a minimum trout standing stock of 27 kg per acre and at least 12 trout, measuring 355 mm or longer, per acre.

The Durango Whitewater Park is undergoing a $60,000 renovation to widen and lower the existing structures. The updates were scheduled from February to March of this year, and indeed much of the work was completed during that time. However, due to higher river flows, the remainder of the renovations has been delayed until later this year when the river lowers. The park remains open while renovations are ongoing.

Working as the main contractor is Whinnery Construction, who was given the task of turning two of the four whitewater structures in the permanent whitewater park. This includes trimming the rocks, firmly secured in concrete.

Established in 1990, Whinnery Construction started out as a construction company, focusing primarily on local utility work in Lake City, Colorado; later expanding its services to include road building, infrastructure, and river restoration.

“There are a lot of abandoned gold and silver mines, particularly in the San Juan region,” says owner Stan Whinnery. “I looked to my family’s mining and logging background to make a start in reclamation work.”

Over the last two decades, Whinnery Construction has performed river restoration projects across Colorado, Wyoming, Illinois, New Mexico and Texas – many completed in conjunction with local engineering firm S2O Design; who fulfilled prestigious jobs like designing the 2012 London Olympics whitewater course and the Riversport Rapids whitewater center in Oklahoma City.

“Whinnery excelled at projects that require precise cutting of natural rock to ensure each piece can withstand fluctuating water currents,” says Scott Shipley, three-time Olympic kayaker and founder of S2O Design

To meet the demands of the site, Whinnery Construction and S2O Design turned to Volvo Construction Equipment for productive and versatile machines. The equipment spans the size classes, including L250H wheel loaders, EC160, EC250 and the latest EC300E excavators, and A30C and A35G articulated haulers.

The larger excavators (EC250D and EC300E) are specified with the proportional two- pump flow, offering greater control for precise and fast operations. Other features work to ensure the work is carried out quickly and efficiently.

“We use a thumb attachment to stack the rocks,” says Whinnery. “When you have a four tonne rock on the end of the boom, with a crew member making sure it’s sited correctly, you need a powerful, stable machine.”

“On an average river restoration project, we will use three ft. diameter rocks, weighing around 2.5 tonnes,” says Whinnery. “We use Volvo articulated haulers to transport the rocks from the source sites to the job site. We try to stay in the 30 tonne truck range because they get around easier on softer ground but can haul the heavy loads.”