High waters in Vail | VailDaily.com

High waters in Vail

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado -Stephanie Mosteller’s two young children love the water, but she said today she was sure to caution them away from Gore Creek’s rushing current.

“We always are careful around the water,” said Mosteller, a Denver resident visiting Vail with her family. “We tell them it’s fast and strong, and they know to respect it.”

With Gore Creek’s water flow running at almost twice the seasonal average, officials are warning visitors and residents to enjoy the area’s rivers but to be careful, especially after a 2 1/2-year-old boy, Colin Cassidy of Edgewater, drowned Sunday morning after falling in.

The boy had wandered away from his family during a walk. His body was found east of the Cascade Resort soon after his family reported him missing.

“The creek is moving faster now and a little higher than typical for this time of year,” said Vail Fire Chief Mark Miller. “The water isn’t extremely deep, but it’s fast, and you can be swept away very easily.”

Going down, but still up

According to the National Water Information System, the creek was running at about 570 cubic feet per second, compared to its average flow at this time of year of about 300 feet per cubic second.

In addition, the water is a bit deeper than usual, measuring at a little over 8 feet deep this weekend. Both water flow and depth were even higher in early June, and have been slowly receding.

The Eagle River through Avon and Minturn is at a similarly above-average level.

Melting winter snow combined with recent rains have kept the streamflows high for longer into the summer, said Vail’s Town Engineer Tom Kassmel.

“We’re not seeing levels as high as last year, but it’s significantly up from average,” he said.

The majority of the Gore Creek that runs from Vail Village to Cascade Village is not fenced off, and Miller said there are no immediate plans to do so.

“It’s tough, because there are hundreds of places (along the creek) that are really accessible to the public,” he said. “Do we try to put up barriers? There are also a great many times when it is safe and kids can go out and wade in the water.”

Miller said the fire department advises people without safety equipment to stay away from the edge of the water, keep children and pets under supervision, and not to go into the water without personal flotation devices or lifejackets.

Kayakers and tubers should also wear the appropriate safety equipment such as helmets, he said.

The waters are strong enough that adults and older children should be careful as well.

“There are precautions even for our guys when doing swift water rescues,” Miller said. “We don’t allow even firefighters near the water unless wearing a personal floatation device.”

Swift water rescue operations chief Dog Schofield said that the water is still too high and cold for inner tubing, and that inexperienced boaters should go with an experienced guide or tour.

“You should take typical precautions – always go with a partner, know where you’re going and wear a (floating device),” he said. “It’s a great time to get out on the river with the rafting companies. The waters have been incredibly fun lately – just be safe.”

While hearing about the recent death has made Indiana resident Linda Fogle wary, it hasn’t stopped the family from enjoying the river. Fogle and her family were sitting by the creek near Lionshead Village Monday afternoon.

However, she said that her six-year-old son, Cooper, has to be reminded to be careful around the water.

“We have a pond near where we leave, and he’s always wanting to go over there,” she said. “We have to just say, ‘No,’ unless he has someone going with him. We have to remind him it’s not just dangerous for little kids.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.