Runoff news: Pretty much every river on the map is indeed stomping down the side of a mountain at the moment — Scott Willoughby

Arkansas River at Salida gage water  year 2014 year to date via the Division of Water Resources
Arkansas River at Salida gage water year 2014 year to date via the Division of Water Resources

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

The head shaking and head scratching and ice cream headaches will arrive soon enough as well. That tends to be the typical reaction, anyway, from those who have decided that whitewater rafting, kayaking and river swimming are not for them. Except for the ice cream headaches, that is. Those belong to the Eskimo rollers and, of course the swimmers.

For the record, no one in their right mind swims a cold Colorado creek or river on purpose during a Memorial Day weekend with conditions like this. Pretty much every river on the map is indeed stomping down the side of a mountain at the moment, and swims from rafts and kayaks are both unwelcome and unintended.

That’s where the head shaking comes in, as dismayed passersby stare at boaters riding rivers resembling fire hoses and wonder, “What in the Sam Hill is wrong with you people?”

It’s a loaded question. And the only way to answer it accurately is to encourage the askers to experience it for themselves.

Despite a tendency toward wild mountain weather, Memorial Day weekend serves as the kickoff to Colorado’s whitewater celebration season, as a string of river festivals make like Creedence Clearwater Revival and start rolling from now through the summer solstice.

They’re not just for card-carrying river rats. Events like the CKS PaddleFest, which continues in Buena Vista through Monday, offer on-water educational courses and pool sessions for budding kayakers taught by Rocky Mountain Outdoors Center. Clinics offer pointers for Stand-Up Paddlers (SUP) looking to transition from flat water to the rivers and introduce kids to both kayaking and SUP in the friendly confines of the Town Pond. They’ll even show you what to wear.

There’s invariably a competitive component as well, be it a freestyle kayak rodeo, downriver race or SUP surfing contest. Typically the action spills out into other adventure sports like mountain biking, rock climbing, trail running and maybe slack-lining too. Spectating is equally encouraged, and there’s always a live music soundtrack.

Here’s a general rundown of river festivals chooglin’ through the state in the coming weeks:

CKS Paddlefest, Buena Vista (Sunday-Monday): A family-friendly, hands-on paddling and adventure sports experience spread between the Arkansas River and the nearby Town Pond in McPhelemy Park. Info: or 719-395-8653.

Lyons Outdoor Games, Lyons (Saturday):Sports ranging from obstacle courses, BMX/MTB riding, slack line and, of course, kayaking. Info:

Yampa River Fest, Steamboat Springs (Friday-Saturday): Slalom and downriver races, freestyle competition, SUP events, river dog contests, kids’ games and more. Info:

GoPro Mountain Games, Vail (June 5-8): The nation’s largest celebration of adventure sports, art and music. Info:

66th annual FIBArk Festival, Salida (June 12-15): The nation’s oldest whitewater festival may just be the top outdoor family festival in Colorado. Info:

Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival, Cañon City (June 20-21): Two days of kayak, raft and inner tube races, SUP sprints, fly-casting contests, triathlon, disc golf, live music, kids Fun Zone and more. Info: or 719-275-1578.

Gunnison River Festival, Gunnison (June 20-22): Boat tours of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, whitewater contests for all ages (and dogs), fly-fishing and art. Info:

More whitewater coverage here.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The large rain storm up in Estes Park tonight has created additional rain and snowmelt runoff into Lake Estes. As a result, we shut down the Adams Tunnel (the West Slope diversion for the C-BT) a day earlier than planned so we can take more Big Thompson River runoff water through the Olympus Tunnel . We are now diverting a full 550 cfs of Big Thompson River runoff over to Horsetooth Reservoir.

However, 550 cfs is the maximum capacity of the Olympus Tunnel, so we are sending the rest of the river’s runoff inflows on through Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson Canyon. This raised the outflow through the dam by 100 cfs.

Olympus Dam outflow to the canyon is now 300 cfs. Although the gage does not yet reflect the change from 200 to 300 cfs, you can track Oly’s outflow at the State’s gage webpage.

It is worth noting that other tributaries to the main stem of the Big Thompson River through the canyon have also gone up. The gage below where the North Fork enters the canyon has been up closer to 400 cfs tonight, meaning below the dam, but before the Narrows section, the canyon is picking up an additional 200 cfs–or there-about. This gage can also be tracked on the State’s webpage.

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