2018 Rafting Season Update and Snowpack Report

Posted on January 23, 2018

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Arkansas River Basin Snowpack Update

Colorado snowpack update.

A slow start to winter, but the snow is starting to pile up

Winter came early in Colorado and then it took an extended break. Long dry periods have been the norm, but we’ve had some much-needed snow storms the past few weeks. The white stuff is starting to pile up, so what kind of runoff can we expect this summer for the most popular whitewater rafting river in the state?

Current Snowpack

Snowpack for the Upper Arkansas River Basin, which includes the northern drainages that impact whitewater rafting conditions on the Arkansas River, is 92% of normal as of January 23, 2018. That is much better than the basin-wide snowpack of 59 percent, or the statewide snowpack of 78 percent.

The short-term forecast includes several chances of significant snow between now and the first week of February. This means the Upper Arkansas River is on track for a close to normal runoff year, but anything is possible. The good news is there is plenty of time to catch up with three of our four snowiest months of the year on average coming up.

USDA Water Supply Outlook Report

The most probable summer flow for the Arkansas River at Salida, Colorado is about 80% of average, according to a January 1 water report from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (page 29). Water managers also expect some account water to be moved from upper reservoirs down to Pueblo Reservoir. This could help keep flows closer to normal during the rafting season. The Voluntary Flow Management Program, which has a target of 700 cfs at the Wellsville gauge from July 1 – August 15 should help as well. The spring snows can really impact runoff so we shouldn’t make too much of this way too early forecast.