During drought, this is right place to be | VailDaily.com

During drought, this is right place to be

Tom Boyd

Dead fish, belly up.It sends shivers down my quivers, rattles something inside. Low water, strange weather, and I half expect some feather-laced, leather-faced shaman to step out from behind a juniper tree, point down at the dead fish, and announce that theres a plague upon us all.But, since our predecessors ran off all the local shaman many years ago, theres little chance of that.Ive seen one white-belly floating up on the Eagle River this year which is exactly three less than I saw last year.Perhaps chance, but it still provides relief.And its a reminder: No matter how bad it looks from here, the Eagle River Basin is still the place to be when it comes to Colorados drought.Wilderness Aware Raftings Joe Griener reports major fish kills on the Arkansas this year. That river, which runs at about 1,500 cubic feet per second during the average July, is running at about 250 cfs. With warm weather and little rain, the water is warmer than the average bath hovering at temperatures near 70 degrees most of the time.The Dolores was pronounced dead long ago, and rescue efforts will have to come from heaven and fish hatcheries over the next few years.The Yampa River has been closed, re-opened, and closed again. Avid fishermen from the area have told me that if it reaches 50 cfs (a real possibility at this point), that river could see a 100 percent fish kill.And for kayakers and rafters, there is little use for complaints.The Shoshone stretch of the Colorado river is reaping the benefit of the Shoshone Power Plants senior water rights. The Eagle River, and now Green Mountain Reservoir on the Blue River, have kept that stretch flowing.Paddlers from around the state are making the journey, and then sadly returning to the drivers seat of their tired cars, getting ready for two, three, even four hours of driving across a brown-dry state.Stationed, as we are, in the center of the universe, we have only an hour (give or take) to get to good water.There are basically two places to float your boat right now: Shoshone and Gore Canyon.Gore Canyon is bringing out its bones, and it looks like it will hover at around 700 cfs for a while. But its a good level, with quality play for those who seek it, and creeky routes offer a happy proxy to thundering, big-water drops.Rafters ready for the next level should call up Lakota Guides or Timberline Tours both companies offer guided trips down Gore Canyon.And Shoshone, ever-popular in August and September, is flowing low ahead of schedule. The word is out: rafts and kayaks are back to bumper-car status (even on weekdays) at our favorite class III play run.And, as usual, hidden among rocky, tough terrain there are still plenty of hideouts for river people to find their fix. (Those kinds of places, however, aren’t talked about in the newspaper.)

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