Paddlers await flash in the Pan
Kayakers and other river runners are rejoicing over news that the Fryingpan River is expected to flow at its highest level in 11 years by Tuesday.Releases from Ruedi Reservoir are expected to peak at 800 cubic feet per second, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. That is about twice the usual spring flow of the lower Fryingpan River. The last time it topped 800 cfs was 1995.The promise of higher flows has piqued the interest of river runners. The lower Fryingpan River is rarely high enough for boating because so much spring runoff is captured in Ruedi Reservoir.”I intend to paddle it because it’s such an anomaly,” said Royal Laybourn, a Missouri Heights resident and longtime river enthusiast.Basalt kayaker Ted Guy said he was among a group of kayakers on the Roaring Fork River who recently discussed if the level would be high enough to run the Fryingpan.”We concluded you can but you have to be careful,” Guy said.Caution is necessary because of the dead logs that have clogged the river channel over the years. Guy said he will likely ride his bike up the Fryingpan once it reaches the peak and judge if it’s safe enough for him.Laybourn said friends of his are already scouting the river for prospects and trouble spots.”The section above Seven Castles is challenging terrain because of a series of low bridges that make it dangerous and difficult. There’s also some dead wood up there,” he said.But the roughly five-mile stretch between Seven Castles and Basalt “will certainly see some river traffic” on small, inflatable craft, Laybourn said. “Even at this cfs, which is double the usual flow, there’s still not much water in that river,” he said.The Bureau of Reclamation announced Friday it will “ramp up” releases by 50 cfs twice per day until it reaches the 800 cfs peak. The flow was at 250 cfs Friday afternoon.The agency realizes the higher flow in the Fryingpan will “entice” boaters, according to spokeswoman Kara Lamb. In a prepared statement, the agency urged boaters who would be uncomfortable in rapidly rising waters to wait until the releases are completed before entering the river.The bureau advised anglers to temporarily avoid the river.”Fishing while wading will not be desirable at these rates, nor comfortable during the incremental release increases,” the agency’s announcement said.The bureau is boosting releases from Ruedi this year for a couple of reasons. First, an above-average snowpack in the Fryingpan Valley means more runoff will flow into the reservoir. To make room and avoid using the dam’s spillway, the bureau must pass some of that water through.In addition, Ruedi participates in a Coordinated Reservoir Operations program. When snowpack allows, a handful of reservoirs in the state coordinate releases to mimic natural flooding on the Colorado River. Those conditions benefit the recovery program of four endangered fish on a 15-mile stretch of the river between Cameo and Grand Junction.The coordinated releases were planned for late May and early June. Warm temperatures forced quicker action, and they might abbreviate the program.”Originally we had planned to have this release schedule last about two weeks,” Lamb wrote. “With the weather being as warm as it is, we might not last that long.”The bureau will evaluate the duration of the higher releases on Monday.
The Fryingpan began swelling on Friday, as Reudi Reservoir started to release enough water to raise the river to 800 cubic feet per second by the middle of next week. The water level will not be hugely significant on any one day, but the volume of the river will more than double over the next five days. Pitkin County said emergency management officials are observing river levels closely, especially near the confluence of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork River, where two trailer parks are located. If weather and snowmelt remain consistent, then rivers in the area will peak sometime next week. Pitkin County’s spring runoff hotline is: 429-1800For more information, visit http://www.aspenpitkin.com and go to flood awareness.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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