Rivers rising near Glenwood Springs | AspenTimes.com

Rivers rising near Glenwood Springs

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Cold, muddy water rushes down from Canyon Creek and under the railroad bridge at its confluence with the Colorado River west of Glenwood Springs. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. ” Runoff from this year’s large snowfall has already caused its first problem in the area.

The Colorado Department of Transportation on Tuesday announced that it closed the bicycle/pedestrian path along Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon between the Grizzly Creek Rest Area and the Hanging Lake Rest Area, which includes the Shoshone Power Plant area, because of rising waters from the Colorado River.

“With the warmer temperatures, the heavy snowfall from this winter is quickly melting,” said CDOT Maintenance Supervisor D’Wayne Gaymon. “At this time, we do not know when the path will reopen as it depends on how quickly the water recedes.”

Runoff from receding snowpack in the area is pushing rivers in the area faster and higher. The Roaring Fork River in Glenwood Springs early Tuesday was flowing at 4,970 cubic feet per second and was at a gage height of 5.51 feet, according to figures from the U.S. Geological Survey. Just a week earlier, the river was flowing at 2,300 cfs and had a gage height of 4.25 feet.

About a month ago, the river was flowing at 1,250 cfs, according to the USGS figures.

Possible flooding of the Roaring Fork River in Glenwood Springs will occur at about 11,800 cfs or a gage height of 8 feet, according to information from the National Weather Service. NWS data as of Tuesday showed the river gage height at about 5.48 feet.

The Colorado River was also crashing through Glenwood at a fast rate. USGS figures showed that the river below Glenwood Springs was flowing at 11,800 cfs on Tuesday, almost double the rate the river flowed a week ago when it was flowing at 6,500 cfs. A little more than a month ago, the river was cutting through the mountains at 3,040 cfs.

NWS information shows that the potential for flooding of the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs occurs at about 21,600 cfs or a gauge height of 10 feet. The river was at about 7.9 feet on Tuesday.

The increasing speed of the river comes at a time when runoff from melting snow is expected to push the river’s water level even higher, according to data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Snow data from a May 1 NRCS forecast showed that the Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs will flow at 142 percent of average during the May through July period. It is the highest forecast issued by the NRCS in the Upper Colorado River basin.

The Colorado River at Dotsero will flow at 118 percent of average during the May through July period, according to the NRCS forecast.

Chris Pacheco, assistant snow survey supervisor with the NRCS, said the snowpacks are above average for this time of the year, and that would sustain some of the river flows for a little while. He added that flows could be even higher if it wasn’t for freezing overnight temperatures at higher elevations – a trend that has moderated some of the river flows.

“That kind of helped to take a lot of the pressure off,” Pacheco said. “It doesn’t mean there isn’t a potential for high water later on. But it sure has minimized the impacts of the bigger snowpacks this year.”

Susi Larson, who is a co-owner of White Water Rafting LLC in Glenwood Springs, said while both the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers are going to get higher as runoff continues, she think doesn’t runoff will send them to the peak levels they reached in the 1980s. At that time, the confluence of the Roaring Fork and the Colorado River reached about 30,200 cfs.

Larson said the quality of the river flows in the Roaring Fork and the Colorado rivers this year are far different than what she and her rafters have been used to.

“We have had drought for five years,” Larson said. “We finally have good water. This is just considered great water. It is not flood water. It is not drought. It is just perfect.”


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User