Arkansas River Basin Snowpack Update and Rafting Season Outlook

Posted on March 7, 2018

Arkansas river basin snowpack levels look good; we anticipate an epic 2018 season!

Arkansas River Basin Snowpack.

Raft April through September, 2018

Even with snow packs lower throughout Colorado, the Arkansas river basin is doing extremely well and we anticipate an epic 2018 season!

Snowpack is an important factor when trying to predict summer whitewater rafting conditions in Colorado. There are, however, other things to consider like reservoir storage, spring temperatures and the potential for big spring snow storms. It’s still too early for a complete outlook, but based on our research, we are prepping for another amazing year of rushing water and unforgettable white water adventure!

Book now, raft this summer

  • 20% off full-days – enter Spring20
  • 15% off half-days and overnights – enter Spring15
  • Offer expires March 20, 2018

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Upper Arkansas River Basin: 84% of normal

USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.

An active weather pattern has returned

Colorado started off with a warm and dry winter, which put us in a hole to start the new year. Consistent snowstorms returned in February, bumping the statewide snowpack up to 69% of normal as of March 7, 2018.

Snowpack varies widely between Colorado’s river basins and the northern part of the state has fared much better. The Snowpack for the entire Arkansas River Basin is 60% of normal, but this average is dragged down by southeastern Snowtel sites that do not impact whitewater rafting conditions. Fremont Pass – a critical Snowtel site for summer rafting conditions – is 99% of median snow water equivalent as of March 7, 2018. The Upper Arkansas River Basin – which is what matters for rafting – was 84% of normal as of March 1, 2018.

Reservoir storage in the Arkansas Basin has had a net decline since October, but it still remains the highest in the state at 142 percent of average. This could be beneficial for late summer flows on the Arkansas River.

The Upper Arkansas River is on track for a below average runoff year, but we should benefit from project water including the Voluntary Flow Management Program (VFMP), which has a target of 700 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the Wellsville Gauge July 1 through August 15.

There is still time to close the gap. The short-term forecast includes several chances of snow and the possibility of a more active weather pattern through March, according to Opensnow.com. Peak snow accumulation in the Arkansas River Basin occurs April 11 on average, but late spring storms have impacted runoff as late as mid-May.

What does this mean for booking your raft trip?

Browns Canyon of the Arkansas River.

Expect plenty of fun

We do expect a shorter peak runoff, but there will be plenty of fun whether you are looking for a family float or a class IV-V experience. The season for rafting the Royal Gorge and the Numbers will be extended because it won’t close for as long in June as it does in higher water years. Families will also be able to enjoy the river more in June because age limits won’t fluctuate as much. Additionally, there will be more access for kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.

Book now, raft this summer

  • 20% off full-days – enter Spring20
  • 15% off half-days and overnights – enter Spring15
  • Offer expires March 20, 2018

BOOK ONLINE