Update: Dolores River Flows Steady at 1200cfs this week.

Posted: 04/03/2017
By: Nathan Fey


Dolores, Colorado - After a cold opening weekend on the Lower Dolores River, the Dolores Water Conservancy District will continue releasing 1,200 CFS below McPhee Dam until runoff starts climbing again later in April.  A new forecast from the Basin Forecast comes out this week that we will combine with the early runoff to run a new operating plan.  We still expect to release around 250,000 AF that will make McPhee releases last approximately 60 days.  

The “ripe” snow pack that sent an extra 30,000 to 40,000 AF down in March continues to receive more snow, but the runoff has stopped climbing with the recent cloud cover and cooler weather.  Runoff is expected to start rising again later this week, then stall, and then re-start next week.  Consistent sunny weather will eventually settle in and rapidly increase inflow into McPhee Reservoir.  The snowpack became isothermal (ripe) several weeks ago, which means the snow column reached 32 degrees and is ready to melt.   The snow pack will stay ripe at 32 degrees and with sunny and warm weather, will start melting again at all elevations.

The forecast runoff from the CBRFC still allows for DWCD to release around 250,000 AF of water that should yield 60 or more boating days above 800 CFS.  The current 1,200 CFS releases is intended to save some water quantity to increase flows later in the spill season when the weather is warmer.  Delaying the jump to 2,000 CFS should also extend the spill. Actual runoff conditions and operational demands may likewise shorten or lengthen the season.

The inflow forecast continues to evolve over April and May even as the runoff is coming down and will continue to force changes to the spill for safety or other operational reasons.  Currently we expect to reach 2,000 CFS releases later in April and still intend to run higher 4,000 CFS releases later in spring, but are still adjusting McPhee release plans to the changing runoff received to date and projections for the next four months.   We will post the next update Thursday April 6 that should reflect updates from the April 1st forecast from CBRFC. 

Ramp down is not currently expected until early June, but that schedule could change depending on variable 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 releases will start ramping down.  From 800 CFS down DWCD will cut back to 600 CFS over 24 hours and then hold for 24 hours.  This pattern repeats through 400, then 200 then down to 75 CFS.  Boaters will have 4 days to get off the water when flows drop from 800 CFS to below 400 CFS when the release ends.


Several Notices:

SLICKROCK Access:  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:  www.doloresriverboating.org

BEDROCK BRIDGE:  Colorado DOT’s temporary equipment bridge 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 for more info, 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.    



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
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