Let's Talk Desert Snowpack - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 02-21-2014   #1
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kuuskv's Avatar
 
Boulder, Colorado
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Let's Talk Desert Snowpack

There are a few runs that I'd like to try to get this year that require a good amount of runoff from desert-like places. In order of how badly I'd like to run these creeks, they are:

1. Embudo
2. San Rafael
3. Virgin Narrows
4. Escalante
5. Upper Box
6. Brazos
30. Grape

It's my understanding that all of these runs need a solid snowpack and a quick warming cycle for sufficient flow. How much do we know about the snowpack in these drainages thus far in the season? I'd really like to hear opinions from people that call these their home rivers.

P.S. There is a Rio Grande discussion going on in another post so we don't have to go through it again on this thread.


Cheers,
Kevin

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Old 02-21-2014   #2
 
cedar city, Utah
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kuuskv View Post
There are a few runs that I'd like to try to get this year that require a good amount of runoff from desert-like places. In order of how badly I'd like to run these creeks, they are:

1. Embudo
2. San Rafael
3. Virgin Narrows
4. Escalante
5. Upper Box
6. Brazos
30. Grape

It's my understanding that all of these runs need a solid snowpack and a quick warming cycle for sufficient flow. How much do we know about the snowpack in these drainages thus far in the season? I'd really like to hear opinions from people that call these their home rivers.

P.S. There is a Rio Grande discussion going on in another post so we don't have to go through it again on this thread.


Cheers,
Kevin
I live in SW Utah and I have never experienced a year like this:

Virgin River is dead this year without some epic spring snowfall. 42% of average and 60 out of the last 75 days have been abnormally hot and dry. We have been sitting close to 70F at 6000 ft way too many days for what is supposed to february. Its odd as Springdale got hammered with an unprecedented amount of snow early on, a rare occurrence in that desert town.

I will assume you are talking about the Escalante in western Colorado and not the one in southern Utah.

San Rafael isn't doing too bad but its hard to predict because of the irrigation issues upstream. Several classic runs on it if it bursts. If you come out for the Black Boxes do some research as there are 1-2 other lesser known runs that provide some unique desert experiences that justify the Class II-III diversions. Sitting at 80-ish% currently, but that is with 2 of the gauges down (there seem to be a lot of dead gauges in southern utah this year).

Phillip
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Old 02-21-2014   #3
 
BV, CO
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I don't know which Escalante the OP meant but I'm interested in hearing about the beauty in S. Utah...
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Old 02-22-2014   #4
 
cedar city, Utah
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Originally Posted by Phil U. View Post
I don't know which Escalante the OP meant but I'm interested in hearing about the beauty in S. Utah...
Utah Escalante River:

(**Sources conflicting each other and I need to look into it.)

abysmal high elevation snow and what looks like slightly above average mid-elevation (one site down with no historic data so that could skew it).

If current conditions keep up: if it goes off this year it will be faster and earlier than normal is my guess. Have flexibility to leave with a couple days notice.

Could be currently worse than that forecast as it looks like one of the local sources that I pull from lists a station that does not actually flow into the Escalante. Seems like much of the snow that has fallen has done so on the North side of the Boulders which from what I can tell should source other branches of streams that feed into the Colorado upriver of the Escalante.

Its been like April around here for far too long. Good for the amount of wood I need to burn but not so great for all of the outdoor sports I have.

Phillip
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Old 02-22-2014   #5
 
BV, CO
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Thanks Phillip
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Old 02-22-2014   #6
 
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Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Grape Creek: while the snowpack is good to excellent in northern and central Colo, here in the Pikes Peak region it's pretty thin, esp after the recent several days of STRONG Chinook winds. Maybe there's a little more in the northern Wet mtns?, but it didn't look that way on a drive through Canon City last Weds.
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Old 02-22-2014   #7
 
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Buena Vista, Colorado
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I don't expect Grape to run with current snowpack. South Colony in the central Sangre's is around 100% of average, but it seems like you need big snow to see significant water released from Deweese Reservoir. Maybe if we get some upslope storms in southern CO this spring. I would like to do a self support sometime from Deweese to Temple Canyon...
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Old 02-22-2014   #8
 
Durango, Colorado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kuuskv View Post
There are a few runs that I'd like to try to get this year that require a good amount of runoff from desert-like places. In order of how badly I'd like to run these creeks, they are:

1. Embudo
2. San Rafael
3. Virgin Narrows
4. Escalante
5. Upper Box
6. Brazos
30. Grape
1. Not looking good. Sange de Cristo snowpack in NM at 56%.
2. Unlikely. Price-San Rafael drainage at 84%. Specifically Seely creek site at 82%. Requires above average snowpack to overcome Emery Water Dist plumbing.
3. No. SW Utah at 42%.
4. Possible with a few more storms and a quick warm up. Columbine pass at 81%.
5. Most water for the Rio grande comes off the east side of the San Juans. Upper rio grande site at 140%, Beartown at 90%, Middle Creek at 99%. I think the Upper Box may have a decent early season before they turn on the irrigation in the San Luis Valley around April 10.
6. Maybe a small window. Chama basin at 58%, but Cumbre Trestle at 70% with 14.4 inches of water.
30. Don't care enough to figure it out.

Lots can change in the next month or two, but those are the odds now.
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Old 02-22-2014   #9
 
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Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Thanks for the better info Landon. I've ridden all through that area on my adv bike but had no idea the headwaters of Grape came out of the SDC's and crossed the valley. Always thought it came off the back side of Hardscrabble.

Google maps is a wonderful thing.

-Jon
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Old 02-23-2014   #10
 
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durango, Colorado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kuuskv View Post
There are a few runs that I'd like to try to get this year that require a good amount of runoff from desert-like places. In order of how badly I'd like to run these creeks, they are:

1. Embudo
2. San Rafael
3. Virgin Narrows
4. Escalante
5. Upper Box
6. Brazos
30. Grape

It's my understanding that all of these runs need a solid snowpack and a quick warming cycle for sufficient flow. How much do we know about the snowpack in these drainages thus far in the season? I'd really like to hear opinions from people that call these their home rivers.

P.S. There is a Rio Grande discussion going on in another post so we don't have to go through it again on this thread.


Cheers,
Kevin
Contact the ranger station in Zion for updates on the run through the narrows, and be sure to check out the rapid at the start of the trail up the narrows down by the visitors center. I recomend caution at that location, but I would also ask if there is anything like that up in the narrows.

Zion NPS people are extreemly helpfull in this regaurd. They want to see the stream used in this manner. So do not be shy. They can tell you when the best time to run is, and how to get to the put in.

we sold them this rescue ribg propbably 10 years ago, and they purchasesd another one last year.


My experience on the virgin river goes way back to 1978 when we destroyed 2 sport yaks in the section below Virgin Ut. There is a diversion dam there now for Quail creek resavoir. Too bad. It was extreemly fun, and I thnk my lucky stars that there was low water. We should have gotten a clue when we portaged a 30 ft cliff right off the bat.

My sister (no water Nancy ) does the san Rafael a lot, but not the black box section.

In 1979 we had One hell of a year on the Virgin Under I 15 in Ariz. That is a unique place to go. Especially for Engineers. What a view of the freeway from below.

Email me if anyone wants more information

Jack [email protected]
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