Colorado River could peak well above average |

Colorado River could peak well above average

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentAn angler wades into the Roaring Fork River Thursday afternoon in Glenwod Springs. Experts expect to see lots of water in the region's rivers and creeks after the winter's heavy snows.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Water experts at the Colorado River Water Conservation District bet each year to see who can most closely predict how high the region’s rivers will rise.

With extra snowpack this year, water resource specialist Mike Eytel’s guessing the Colorado River’s peak flow near Glenwood Springs could come in at 20,000 cubic feet per second or more. That’s more than two times the normal flow the river sees in the middle or end of June, he said.

“We’re sitting at the best snowpack in easily a decade for this time of year,” he said.

The Upper Colorado River Basin currently has about 119 percent of the normal water content in its snowpack. The Bureau of Reclamation has predicted runoff this year will raise Lake Powell by 30 feet or more.

On Thursday, the Colorado River near Glenwood was flowing at slightly above average. Flows usually increase and get cranking in mid-April, Eytel said.

A few consecutive nights without a freeze could lead to a significant increase in runoff, or colder, freezing nights and more precipitation could even continue to build snowpack and cause the rivers to hit their peak later.

Wind can the snowpack to evaporate, which means less water in creeks and rivers, said Dennis Davidson, a conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Ken Murphy, general manager of Rock Gardens Rafting, said, “The biggest bonus out of the whole issue is our season will run longer.”

Murphy said this year should be better than recent years, when there hasn’t been as much water as people would have liked. It should make for some better rafting with a little more action farther downstream from Shoshone rapids than in previous years, he said.

But he agrees the weather will control how things play out. “Really the next two months set the tone for where the peak flow is going to be,” he said.

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