Yampa, Elk rivers have reached peak flows for the season barring heavy rains
May 17, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Unless the forecasted rain showers this weekend turn into thunderstorms and heavy rain, the Yampa and Elk rivers have likely reached their seasonal peak flows for the season, according to the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“I think the main stem of the Yampa has peaked,” forecast center senior hydrologist Ashley Nielson said Wednesday. “There is a chance for some rain this weekend, but it would take heavy precipitation over the Yampa and Elk rivers,” to send them to a new level.
Yampa River recent peak flows
May 20, 2009 3,060 cfs
June 7, 2010 4,320 cfs
June 7, 2011 5,200 cfs
April 27, 2012 1,570 cfs
May 27, 2013 2,830 cfs
May 29, 2014 4,850 cfs
May 7, 2015 3,550 cfs
June 9, 2016 3,880 cfs
June 8, 2017 3,020 cfs
**measured cubic feet per second at the Fifth Street Bridge in Steamboat Springs
That means the Yampa reached its zenith for the season at 12:45 a.m. May 14, when the flow was 2,570 cubic feet per second. If that figure is confirmed, it would be the lowest peak since 2012 when the river topped out at 1,570 cfs on April 27.
"One thing about this year is that even though we had low snowpack,” Nielson said, "we had near normal spring temperatures,” which helped to keep the rivers from peaking even sooner.
The Elk River, a major tributary of the Yampa that reaches its confluence about 5 miles west of Steamboat, was flowing at 2,130 cfs on Wednesday but is expected to rebound up to more than 2,600 cfs in the next two days before gradually tapering off to about 1,800 cfs by May 27.
“I do think the Elk, based on the models, should increase in the next few days,” Nielson said. “But I don’t know if it will get as high as it did last week. Then, I think it’s most likely done.”