Lower Dolores River will come alive with rapids for at least 10 days — The Cortez Journal

Ponderosa Gorge, Dolores River. Photo credit RiverSearch.com.

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga) via The Durango Herald:

A 10-day whitewater boating release is planned for the Dolores River below McPhee dam and reservoir, managers said this week.

The recreational water flows will be let out from Tuesday to May 30 and are scheduled to accommodate boaters over Memorial Day weekend.

“Timing the release early for the three-day holiday was a big interest for the boating community,” said Mike Preston, general manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District.

Beginning Tuesday, the managed “spill” will increase at a rate of 400 cubic feet per second per day to achieve a 1,200 cfs flow by the morning of May 24. The high flow will be maintained through May 27, then ramp down to 800 cfs through noon May 30. A gradual ramp down over a few days will follow.

However, the managed release is expected to continue after May 30, but to what extent has not yet been determined, water officials said.

Winter snowpack that reached 140% of normal is enough to fill McPhee Reservoir and provide the boating release below the dam. Recent cooler and rainy weather in Southwest Colorado has slowed the snowpack runoff, creating uncertainty about the final timing…

The inflow rate will depend on hard-to-predict temperatures and potential rain in the coming weeks. McPhee is expected to reach full capacity by mid-June, said district engineer Ken Curtis, and all irrigators will get a full supply for the season…

The 97-mile stretch of the Dolores River below the dam from Bradfield Bridge to Bedrock is revered by boaters for its challenging rapids and remote, red-rock canyon wilderness.

The three- to five-day Slick Rock-to-Bedrock section through winding Slick Rock Canyon offers a pristine river running experience. The 18-mile, one-day Ponderosa Gorge has convenient access and fills with locals and tourists when the river runs. No permit is required to boat the Dolores River.

Dolores River near Bedrock

The expert Snaggletooth Rapid is especially notorious for drenching boaters and occasionally flipping boats. A road along the river accessed from Dove Creek is a popular spot to spend the day watching boaters negotiate the wild hydraulics created by the rapid’s “fangs.”

[…]

Also this week, temperature suppression flows of 100 cfs were released from the dam to benefit the downstream native fishery. The strategy is to delay the spawning of the bluehead and flannelmouth suckers and roundtail chub until after the whitewater release.

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