EAGLE COUNTY — We may be ready to do a little sunshine-basking with several days of warm weather in the forecast, but a little heat on the high hillsides is also going to accelerate our annual snowmelt, which may lead to some local flooding.
The National Weather Service office in Grand Junction issued a flood advisory Tuesday for parts of Eagle County along Gore Creek and the Eagle River. That advisory is expected to last until the early-morning hours of Friday.
Riding the Gore
The advisory predicts only “minor” flooding, and in the usual low-lying areas. But it also comes with the familiar warning to not cross flooded roadways.
“It only takes a few inches of swiftly-flowing water to carry vehicles away,” the warning states.
While people in low-lying areas are watching the streams, all that water can be entertaining if you’re a kayaker or rafter. And, for the first time in a couple of years, a local company is running raft trips down Gore Creek.
“It’s at a great level right now,” Kelly Gallagher of Sage Outdoor Adventures said. “It should run this way for a while.”
The Gore ran too low for rafting in 2012 and 2013. This year, with ample snowfall still on the hillsides, Gallagher said the Gore could be raftable at least into mid-June.
Looking at one of the U.S. Geological Survey’s snow-measurement stations, though, it’s easy to believe that the snow won’t last much longer. The site at Vail Mountain seems to be about melted off for the year. And that means the end of the runoff season. But there’s still plenty of snow in other areas.
Diane Johnson, of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, said a number of trees have been cut down around the Vail Mountain measurement site. With greater exposure to the sun, snow will melt faster there. Johnson said readings from sites at Fremont Pass and Copper Mountain still show plenty of snow yet to melt.
“It’s been a very unusual snowmelt this year,” Sage owner Darryl Bangert said.
A couple of warm spells in March and April took a lot of the snow in lower areas, while still leaving plenty at higher elevations. A quick drive over Vail Pass shows plenty of snow, but Vail itself is virtually snow-free.
Depending on the amount of snow and the number of warm days during the next few weeks, this rafting season could be a good one. Local companies are already hosting trips on streams throughout the region. And this year’s snowmelt is creating some record streamflow peaks above Minturn.
Tough fishing conditions
While this year’s runoff is shaping up to be pretty significant, that’s not great news for fishing enthusiasts. At this point, it could be somewhere between a few and several weeks before rivers are fishable this year.
On the other hand, it’s not high season for fishing-guide companies just yet.
Alex Forsberg, a guide at Minturn Anglers, said that company can find calm — usually higher-elevation — water for clients right now.
And, he said, the annual runoff is always good for fish habitat, providing a good annual flush for the streams and keeping temperatures low.
“It’s good for the trout, and that’s what we want,” Forsberg said.
Of course, if the streams are still tough to fish by the Fourth of July, that story may change a bit.