“If someone says they’re not scared, don’t get in their boat” — Christian Wright #DoloresRiver

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

From OutThereColorado.com (Seth Boster):

“You’re all here at a momentous time,” guide Trey Roberts said before the drop. “You’re about to raft a big, famous, rare river.”

Jeanette Healy of Utah had been waiting 10-plus years for this chance on the Dolores. Doug Nie, a kayaker from Albuquerque, had been waiting even longer. Also here were Rick and Beverly Anderson, a young couple from Albuquerque as well.

“We figured we could do the Las Animas and Arkansas out in (Buena Vista) any year,” Rick said. “But this is our one chance to do Dolores.”

Chances have been tough to come by since the 1980s, when the McPhee Dam began trapping the water that Dominguez and Escalante found to be rushing during their 1776 expedition. El Rio de Nuestra Señora de Dolores, they called it — the River of Our Lady of Sorrows…

Most joyful now are the boaters who had hoped this year’s snowpack would grant McPhee’s occasional controlled “spills.” As of last week, the Dolores Water Conservancy District expected releases to remain at or above 1,200 cubic feet per second through June 23, keeping the river fun until then at least.

That would mean a rafting season of almost one month here, which seems a short window. But longtime river rats regret to say that’s long for the Dolores.

Bill Dvorak, who’s frequented the state’s rivers since the ’60s, can’t recall a longer season. He ran the Dolores in 2017; his last time before that was 2009. “Every six to eight years is about when I get on it,” he said.

And he gets on it almost every floatable opportunity. The Dolores, after all, is easily his favorite river in Colorado…

Mcphee Reservoir

Provisions are still vague. Releases are indeed unpredictable, said Michael Preston, general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District. The Bureau of Reclamation factors in current reservoir levels with never-perfect forecasts. Then there’s juggling ever-increasing demand: Farmers combine for the largest allocation of the supply, recent spreadsheets show, followed by the downstream fishery, tribe and municipalities.

“McPhee is a hard-working reservoir,” Preston said. “We use every inch of our active storage capacity to take care of things.”

[…]

The height of that arch is reached at Snaggletooth, the legendary Class IV rapid aptly named. Swirling eddies are like mouths ready to inhale, the jumble of rocks like jaws ready to chomp.

From an embankment, we stopped to analyze the beast. And yes, [Christian] Wright was scared. “If someone says they’re not scared, don’t get in their boat,” he said.

Dolores River watershed

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