Vail Valley rivers still raging heading into July 4
Eagle River is gauged at 6,100 cubic feet per second on Tuesday morning
GYPSUM — Ian Daugherty was born and raised in the valley and worked summers as a raft guide to put himself through Auburn University.
Daugherty’s father was a raft guide and so are his daughters, usually with Joe Kelso’s Colorado River Runs in Radium. Like all families, they sometimes disagree, but they’re of one mind this week about the Eagle River.
“It’s as high as I’ve ever seen it, and I’ve never seen it this high this late,” Daugherty said Tuesday morning.
Daugherty still runs the river when he has the chance. In his long experience, during normal years most commercial companies are winding down their season by July 4. This year both the commercial companies and the rivers are still running strong.
Speaking of running strong, Daugherty made a 20-mile run from Catamount to Horse Creek in about four hours. What’s usually a two-day trip downriver from Westwater — just across the Colorado line in Utah — took less than a day, Daugherty said.
Gauging the river
Daugherty was working Tuesday morning with his town of Gypsum crew when he spotted Craig Muelot and Jon Gholson with the U.S. Geological Survey measuring the Eagle River flow in Gypsum.
There’s a USGS river gauge by the bridge along Highway 6 in Gypsum. It’s at the entrance to the Riverview neighborhood, which has a better river view this spring than any spring anyone can remember.
Anyway, a USGS gauge has been in that spot for about 75 years and it has never registered numbers like these.
The USGS doesn’t forecast future flows, they measure facts, Gholson explained.
For example, when the Eagle River was flooding Gypsum’s Park View neighborhood Monday, the river was running at 7,300 cubic feet per second. Tuesday morning it was running 6,100 cfs.
Gholson and Muelot know this because they drove up from the USGS Grand Junction office to measure for themselves. That explains the Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler they were using. It looks a like a big tri-hulled remote control boat in the river. It isn’t.
It’s a piece of electronic equipment that measures the speed and volume at which the river is rolling past. It does this with acoustic beams that measure how quickly particles in the water flow past.
“It pings the depth and particles in the water, and how fast they go through the beam,” Muelot said.
Usually the particles are things like sediment in the water.
Tuesday morning their ADCP was konked regularly with particles like sticks, logs and a chuck of railroad tie floating downriver.
After flooding forced homes to be evacuated Monday in Gypsum’s Park View neighborhood, the river was threatening a mobile home park Tuesday.
At the other end of the valley, Red Cliff residents rallied to try to fight back rising flood waters.
In Vail, the Gore Creek is running its highest since 2010, and the second highest in 19 years, according to measurements from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s Vail facility.
Vail Mountain opens Nov. 15, about a week earlier than normal. But that earlier opening will be out of Vail Village, not Lionshead.