Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.
From The Colorado Sun (Dan England):
Colorado’s snowpack is reaching historic proportions this spring, and that leaves fans of whitewater excited — and a bit nervous. Last year’s slim snowpack threatened to run river rafting companies out of business, especially in southern Colorado, where rafters were left scrounging for trickles of water. This year, enthusiasts see opportunity, as all rivers look ready to run wild. In fact, it’s hard to pick where to go first…
All over Colorado, river forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are seeing snowpacks of up to 200 percent of average in…southern Colorado, with those same snowpacks in the top three of the past 30 years. Snowpacks over the rest of Colorado are still great but more moderate, more like 120 percent of median statewide as of Friday, ranks that put them in the top 10 of the past 30 years. That still leaves room for excitement.
“The snowpack is just … huge,” said Lee Crowley, a senior hydro meteorologist and water supply forecaster for the Arkansas-Red River Basin for the NOAA, which handles the Arkansas River. “But everyone there knows that.”
Fast melt turns rivers dangerous
If summer does get in a hurry, especially several days in a row, much of the snow can melt, sending a rush of water downstream. If those huge piles of snow still haven’t melted until then, the rush of water could turn fun rivers into angry, frothing rides of terror.
People die when that happens, and Colorado leads the nation in river deaths since 1975. There were 77 people killed in Colorado whitewater from 1975-2005 and 78 killed since then, a rise attributed to the rise in popularity of kayaking, as well as family rafting trips, according to American Whitewater. More than 80 percent were people rafting on their own, not under the watch of an outfitter.