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Dolores River Update - April 27th

Posted: 04/27/2017
by Nathan Fey

Dolores, CO - Ah, the Dolores River.  Like we do every week, AW is working with water managers to best manage water supplies for the benefit of paddlers, and to restore the Dolores RIver. Each week presents a different set of challenges for the few groups that are working every day to improve the river.

Forecasts from weather watchers and water supply models continue to trend down as we move though spring, meaning that best estimates suggest McPHee Reservoir may only release  221,000 acre-feet of inflow. For those of us planning a once-in-five year trip, here's what you need to know for Thursday April 27, 2017:  

Today – May 1:  Releases will be at Optimum Flows, 1,900 – 2,100.

May 2 – May 8:  Releases will be High Flows, 2,100+

May 4, 5 & 6:  Releases will be High Flows at 4,000 CFS +/-

Releases will begin to ramp down starting Sunday May 7 & continue over 3 days until minimal boating flows of 800 – 1200 CFS are reached.  These flows should run through May while Dam operators are filling McPhee reservoir. This schedule is dependent on future weather and affected inflows to McPhee Reservoir.  Stay tuned.

The ramp down after May 8 will continue down to boatable flows in the 800 – 1,200 CFS range while McPhee fills prior to Memorial Day.  Forecasted water supply amounts continue to drop and may not produce releases that reach into June.


Conditions on the river, especially below Gypsum Valley, have been reported as very dry and risk of campfires getting out of control is a serious concern.  Last year’s grasses are dry and not yet replaced by green spring growth.  Additionally, spring winds are picking up.  PLEASE use extra caution when camping in the river corridor.  Keep any cooking fires small.  As always, use your fire pan and blanket.  Select an area for your fire pan that is away from dry fuels.  Monitor the wind.  Ensure your fire is cold before going to bed.  Have water and a shovel at hand at all times.  Thank you and have a safe and enjoyable trip!  

Continue to watch the releases below McPhee at

Several Notices:

SLICKROCK:  Slickrock put-in/take-out access will happen on private property downstream of Hwy 141 bridge (bridge crosses Dolores River) about 200 yards past bridge on river left.  Look for small flagging in bushes on left.  DO NOT use the old boat ramp on river right upstream of bridge.  That is private property and is not accessible this season.  Additional info about Slickrock access here from DRBA:

BEDROCK BRIDGE The temporary equipment bridge (the low clearance one) was removed Thursday afternoon March 30. No intermittent closures are expected for a week or two. When a more definitive start date is available CDOT will provide notice.  Please see their website at  and look for signs, spotters and other guidance from the contractor, SEMA Construction, when the intermittent closures are active.

DOVE CREEK PUMPHOUSE ROAD:  Please be careful of heavy traffic in and out of the Dove Creek Pumps launch site.  The road narrows and trucks with trailers cannot pass each other at certain points.  Consideration of others and patience are appreciated here.    

Ramp down is not currently expected until early June, but that schedule could change depending on continued spring weather.  The snow on the ground that is starting to melt will carry us through the first 45 days.  When the Dolores Inflow matches the McPhee outflow on the way down a last peak we will start ramping down.  From 800 CFS down we cut back to 600 over 24 hours and then hold for 24 hours.  This pattern repeats through 400, then 200 then down to 75 CFS and we’re done.  Ultimately you will have 4 days from 800 CFS to below 400 CFS when the releases start down.



After your trip, Please Take Our Online Survey!

Your participation will directly inform the next release from McPhee Dam. 

Make your voice heard!

American Whitewater has developed a web-based survey that allows paddlers to report on their experiences on the Lower Dolores River this season.  With this survey we are collecting important information, directly from YOU, to help us improve McPhee Dam operations in coordination with DWCD, Reclamation, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.  

Your input will help us:

1)  Report on various factors that influence your experience on the river,

2)  Identify where you think improvements in river management can be made,

3)  Assess the impact that river-recreation has on local economies.

This effort is part of AW's ongoing role as the leading Recreation Interest in the Dolores River Dialogue and the Lower Dolores River Native Fish Monitoring and Recovery Team. 

Colorado Stewardship Director
Nathan Fey
1601 Longs Peak Ave.
Longmont, CO 80501
Phone: 303-859-8601

Associated Projects

Dolores River (CO)
American Whitewater is working to conserve and restore a dynamic, healthy Dolores River by leveraging recreational water needs to enhance and support in-stream flows.

Associated Rivers