GRAND JUNCTION; Colo. The National Weather Service forecasts peak heights this week for the Colorado River through Grand Junction.
The service hydrologist, Aldis Strautins said the heat is melting snow from the mountain tops, making for a fast and potentially dangerous runoff.
“This week looks like it’s going to be a peak for many of the rivers this week, and early next week, it looks like the peak time for peak flow from snow melt,” Strautins said.
Rondo Buecheler has spent a lot of time on the river as a guide for 38 years. He’s now in charge of trips for Palisade River Trips, Rapid Creek Cycles and Paddle Boards, and Grand Canyon Dories.
“The river is high through Grand Junction so you want to have the experience and skill level to negotiate the river and the proper equipment,” Buecheler said.
He suggests riding in a raft with multiple chambers so you can stay afloat longer in case of a break.
Inner tubes should be avoided until the level and speed of the river drops in about three weeks.
“If you have the equipment and the experience it’s an exhilarating time to go boating but without that it could be deadly,” Buecheler said.
Snowpack in the central mountains was 103 percent above normal this year. On June 6 the Colorado River was about 10.5 feet deep and is forecasted to crest at about 11 feet.
“When the water is this high it’s up into the trees and bushes along the bank and its real easy to get caught in them,” Buecheler said.
The water is very cold and moving quickly. It can be very easy to get swept away and caught up in the wrong current if you don’t have a boat that is easy to control.
Strautins said the river is expected to peak before it reaches flood levels this year. Flood advisories are issued at 12 feet and minor flooding really begins at 12.5 feet.
The Gunnison River Basin snow pack stayed slightly below average at 93 percent of normal. Strautins said it already peaked and is now at five and a half feet. Flood advisories are issued at 10 feet.
According to the Climate Prediction Center there is an expected shift to La Nina. Typically the weather in Western Colorado will become hot and dry.
“If we get into a longer term where we are dry and not getting any rains, well maybe that could contribute to us starting to get into drought,” Strautins said.
During the transition period this summer the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above average rain meaning drought is unlikely for Colorado.