Colorado flows sideline novice paddlers |

Colorado flows sideline novice paddlers

April E. Clark
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Mother Nature, not a busted pipe, gets the credit for this year’s peak flows on the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. The river hit 6,770 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, June 19.

The high mark came one day before a pipe ruptured at the Shoshone hydroelectric plant in the canyon.

“I’m sure it had a quick gush, but the water is high because there is still runoff from the mountains,” said Brian Wright, co-owner of Glenwood Canyon Kayak. “But we’ve definitely passed our peak.”

At 3:15 p.m. on June 19, the Dotsero gauge on the Colorado River recorded a peak flow of 6,770 cfs, according to Wright. The river was running in the 4,400-cfs range on Monday ” still high enough to keep all but experienced river runners on shore.

“It’s been so warm that the snow is going fast,” Wright said. “I would highly caution people against that unless they know what they’re doing.”

The rapid called Upper Death, located just below the diversion dam, is flowing around a Class 6 category, Wright said.

“That’s pretty much unrunnable unless you’re really hot,” he said.

On the International Scale of River Difficulty, Class 5 calls for advanced whitewater experience, while Class 6 requires expert skill level.

Because of last week’s ruptured tube at the Shoshone hydroelectric plant, the energy facility is closed. The Grizzly Creek and Hanging Lake rest areas remain without power, but Colorado Department of Transportation crews will set up six portable toilets at both the Hanging Lake and Grizzly Creek rest areas to accommodate visitors.

The Glenwood Canyon recreation path reopened Saturday after mud and debris left from the Shoshone rupture was removed.

“What we’re challenged by is at the Grizzly Creek and Hanging Lake rest areas, you can’t use the facilities, which is unfortunate since it’s tourist season,” said Nancy Shanks, of the Colorado Department of Transportation. “We have put in six portable toilets at each site.”

Shanks said CDOT rented generators for Grizzly Creek and Hanging Lake, scheduled for Thursday delivery, costing approximately $4,500 per month.

“If all goes well, we’ll have power to those areas by the weekend, if not Thursday night,” she said. “We will pick up the 12 portable toilets our maintenance crews had temporarily installed.”

The Shoshone plant was damaged after a ruptured tube released large amounts of water, covering the canyon path with mud and debris and flooding the building with 7 to 10 feet of water.

“We are still in the cleaning process, both inside and out,” said Ethnie Groves, a spokeswoman for Xcel Energy, which operates the plant. “We’ll start inspection of equipment early next week. We’re working hard to clean up.”

Work on the eastbound paving project is nearing completion, according to CDOT. The work, which began on May 7, is expected to be done by Friday, June 29.

Hanging Lake Tunnel repairs are continuing with the tunnel’s eastbound bore to remain closed through the fall.

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