Snowpack/runoff news: Cool April to lead to a gangbuster season for whitewater sports?

A picture named kayaker.jpg

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

Recent cold and snow have meant a slow start to the snowmelt, as most rivers are running below normal, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs was flowing at 962 cubic feet per second Sunday. The 30- year median for this time of year is 1,930 cfs. Rafters on the Colorado River, however, got an earlier start because of dam releases, said Sandra Winslow, manager at Whitewater Rafting LLC, a 36-year-old business in Glenwood Springs. As a result, the Colorado River was running at 2,200 cfs Sunday, she said. The normal peak of the season is late May, but delayed snowmelt could mean a gangbuster season with the fast stream flow later this month.

From the Summit Daily News (Julie Sutor):

Denver Water, which supplies water to about 1.3 million people in the Denver Metro area, has 10 major reservoirs, including Dillon Reservoir, in its water-storage system. “They’re all going to fill, so that’s good news,” Denver Water’s Bob Steger said.

As of May 15, snowpack in the Upper Colorado River basin, which includes Summit County’s Blue River, was 89 percent of average; year-to-date precipitation in the basin totaled 92 percent of average on Saturday. The Colorado River Basin’s peak snowpack this year was 83 percent of the 1971-2000 average peak. Snowpack in the South Platte basin was 106 percent of average on May 15, and year-to-date precipitation was 91 percent of average, which is good news for Summit County. Denver Water gets about half its water from the South Platte basin, and about a quarter from the Blue River basin. So when the South Platte is dry, the agency draws more water from the Blue, including Dillon Reservoir.

As for the quality of kayaking, rafting and fishing on the Blue River below Dillon Dam, that will depend on the next few months’ weather on both sides of the Continental Divide. If wet weather persists, Steger predicts the Lower Blue will have five to six weeks of good rafting and 14 to 15 weeks of good fishing. If the weather turns dry for the next few months, the Blue River will only be conducive to rafting for one or two weeks. But fishing, which is better at lower flows, will be good for 18 to 19 weeks during late spring and summer…

Denver Water is now conducting research to quantify how dust storms affect the timing of snowmelt and peak river flows and the implications the storms have on its operations. Several dust storms have come through Summit County this spring. Drought and human development are the major causes of dust storms, as disturbances to soil allow it to be picked up more easily by winds.

Leave a Reply