#Runoff news: “The rivers haven’t even really started running yet” — Jim Ingram

From The Aspen Daily News (Chad Abraham):

River levels have barely budged this month as snow and rain — the city of Aspen Water Department has recorded 16 days of measurable precipitation so far in May — continue to lock in the substantial snowpack that will swell, at some point, the Roaring Fork, Fryingpan and Colorado rivers. Data from the U.S. Geological Survey show that the Roaring Fork below Maroon Creek this week has approached flows of 360 cubic feet per second before dropping down, as of Thursday, to about 280 cfs.

“It’s been an interesting start to the year,” said Vince Nichols, owner of Blazing Adventures, of the rafting season. “Hopefully, it’s putting that water in a savings account for us, and we can use it later. We’ll see how quickly that runoff comes at us.”

While this is far from the first snowy spring in the upper valley, “this one is certainly unique [and is] especially evident coming off a season like last year,” Nichols said of the severe drought that gripped much of Colorado until this winter.

He said his veteran staffers Thursday were leading swim drills for rookie guides in the Snowmass Hole near the Old Snowmass gas station.

But since the beginning of May, Blazing Adventures, Aspen Whitewater Rafting and other companies have been running trips on most stretches of the Fork — including Slaughterhouse, a 4.5-mile section that is perhaps the river’s most intense for rafters and kayakers.

Because most of the snowpack hasn’t melted, rafting firms plunging through Slaughterhouse and its waterfall are using 10-foot Mini Max crafts suitable for four guests and a guide, whereas when the water comes up, they’ll employ the more standard 13-foot rafts that can seat a couple more…

And once the runoff surge subsides, the above-average snowpack will still entail a long and successful rafting season, according to the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

“Some years Colorado has a great snow year, but then it warms up quick in April and May, and the snowmelt and runoff happens really early in the season,” said the association’s executive director, David Costlow, in a press release. “Years like this, when we have great snowfall and some of these late spring snows, it really helps both to keep early season flows steady and extend the season later into the summer months.”

CROA is predicting a slightly later start to this year’s rafting season, one that could run through mid-September…

[Jim Ingram] predicted that Slaughterhouse Falls will exceed 2,000 cfs at some point this summer, meaning his company will not run trips down it at that level for safety reasons. Regardless, he said he’s hopeful for a long rafting season on the Roaring Fork.

“The rivers haven’t even really started running yet,” he said. “There’s a ton of snow up there, and we’re going to have a wonderful season.”

Browns Canyon via BrownsCanyon.org

From The Denver Post (John Meyer):

“All across the state, I think this should be a very good year for rafting,” said David Costlow, executive director of the Colorado River Outfitters Association. “Will it be best year ever? I don’t know; 1993 was a whopping year, 1995 proved to be a very good year. It’s probably going to be the best in the last 20 years.”

Costlow said he expects snowmelt runoff to begin next week…

Outfitters across the state should benefit from above-average snowpack throughout the high country, including areas that suffered last summer because of drought. The Durango area was particularly hard hit then, but the outlook there is exciting. The snowpack in that area is way above normal.

From 9News.com (Cory Reppenhagen):

“If there is any doubt on any of our reservoirs, it would probably be Blue Mesa which is our biggest reservoir, and was also the hardest hit by the drought last year,” said Becky Bolinger, the assistant state climatologist at the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University.

The rest of the good news stems from what that record snowpack has done for our drought. Colorado entered the winter will the highest level of drought, and it was widespread across the state but significantly worse in the southwest.

Now this week, Colorado is 100% drought-free for the first time since the National Drought Monitor was developed 19 years ago. There are even no areas categorized as Abnormally Dry, sometimes referred to as D0 drought…

“We’ve replenished the deficits in our soil moisture, we’ve replenished the deficits that were in the rivers, and we’re on track for replenishing the deficits in our reservoirs,” said Bolinger.

It’s good news for Colorado’s wildfire threat. Governor Polis announced the state’s forecast for a less active wildfire season earlier this month.

It’s good news for outdoor recreation. Even though the rafting season is off to a slow start, the forecast is for an extended season lasting into the late summer. And we might be able to bring the campfires back to summer camping, a common complaint in 2018 as burn restrictions covered the entire state of Colorado.

And now for the bad news…

The first strong ridge of high pressure we’ve seen in a while is starting to build. That means lots of sunlight on that frozen reservoir during the next 6 or 7 days.

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