High temps give rivers twin peaks | AspenTimes.com

High temps give rivers twin peaks

Tim Mutrie

Matt Fields of Aspen navigates the Roaring Fork River below Aspen after running Slaughterhouse Falls earlier this week. The high temperatures are again swelling local rivers and creeks. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.

With the ongoing spring runoff, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation anticipated Ruedi Reservoir will fill up sometime today ” a first in about five years, according to agency spokeswoman Kara Lamb.

And increased inflows into the full reservoir mean increased outflows into the Lower Fryingpan River below the dam this weekend. Forecast flows of 500 cubic feet per second will make the Pan, typically the domain of fishermen, fit for kayaking.

Meanwhile, other local rivers like the Roaring Fork and the Crystal are swelling to some of the highest levels of the season ” a phenomenon that has some local boaters celebrating a so-called “second peak,” or second big surge of runoff this season.

Or maybe it’s all just a matter of perception.

“Because we’ve had such a string of low water years, it makes this runoff seem bigger, when really it’s fairly average,” said Brian Wright, one of the owners of Colorado Canoe and Kayak, a river-running hub on Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs.

The first peak came in late May, as it usually does, Wright noted. Then a series of cold spells and storms came through the region, “and the rivers almost dropped in half,” Wright said.

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But beginning with the first of many scorching days on June 15, the rivers reversed once more. “And they’ve shot back up again,” Wright said.

“If it wasn’t for this second peak, it’d just be an average runoff. But this second peak is like an added bonus that’s pushed it past average. It’s been really fun,” Wright said.

Yesterday, Bob Harris, owner of Blazing Adventures, said the upper Roaring Fork was peaking right now. “It’s the highest peak and the last peak, and it’ll probably last for a couple more days,” he said.

Lamb, of the Bureau of Land Reclamation, opened an e-mail concerning Ruedi and Lower Fryingpan River flows yesterday with this greeting: “All, We have water again!”

“We are anticipating we will fill Ruedi Reservoir by [today]. With that filling will come increased releases …”

The lower Pan was running about 380 cfs yesterday afternoon, and Lamb said the level would be boosted to about 500 cfs for the weekend.

“By Friday afternoon, we anticipate we will basically be passing inflow through the reservoir and directly to the river. … There is a possibility we will be pushing a little water over the spillway [today]. As we ramp up releases through the outlet works to match inflow, the small amount of water down the spillway will decrease.”

The Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers were running near or at peak levels yesterday.

“The Crystal’s gotten higher than I’ve ever seen it ” an epic runoff for sure ” and today it’s higher than it has been all year,” Wright, who has lived in the valley for eight years, said of yesterday’s 2,000 cfs level.

And the Roaring Fork seems poised for another peak, as well. It swelled close to 1,600 cfs early Thursday.

“It’s hard to say when and what the exact peak will be,” Wright said. “We’ll have to see what happens [today]. But for sure, I’d say, it’ll be peaking soon.”

As for the lower Fryingpan, Wright, who paddled it a few years ago at about 300 cfs, said it should be good to go at the forecasted 500 cfs levels.

“It’s typically littered with logs, so it’s not very safe, but for a good boater that’s on it, you can definitely get down it. It’s Class III-plus, IV-minus, depending on the flow,” Wright said.

Despite increased flows, Ed Deison, head guide at Frying Pan Anglers in Basalt, said the lower Pan and Roaring Fork remain fishable. Yesterday afternoon, Deison was getting ready to float from Basalt to Carbondale on the Fork.

Deison said he recently fished it and “it was awesome,” but the water level has since come up.

“Over on the Pan, it’ll fish fine at the higher water level, but sometimes it takes the fish a day or two to acclimate to the new flow. Sometimes it can put ’em down for a bit.

“On the Fork, it’s best fishing from a boat right now. You can’t really wade at all. Matter of fact, I’d consider it to be dangerous to be wading right now,” Deison said.

Wright also urged recreationists to use caution around any swift-moving water.

“The water’s cold and you lose your strength quickly if you’re in it,” Wright said. “And maybe it’s because we just haven’t seen this kind of water in a while, but it seems like people just don’t have enough respect for it. It can be a disaster waiting to happen.”

Times Staff Writer Naomi Havlen contributed to this report. Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is mutrie@aspentimes.com