Trying to understand San Juan and Animas flows - Mountain Buzz
 

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Old 05-15-2013   #1
 
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
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Trying to understand San Juan and Animas flows

We are supposed to launch on the San Juan this weekend, but the flow has been dropping steadily, now 330 cfs. I know that 500 is the recommended minimum, but we will be in canoes and IKs. We are planning a week on the river, Sand island to Clay Hills.

USGS Current Conditions for USGS 09379500 SAN JUAN RIVER NEAR BLUFF, UT

The Animas flow is going up rapidly, but stepwise; it does not look natural to me. Where is that water coming from? Perhaps more importantly, is all that water going to end up in the San Juan at Bluff? And when will the Animas flow start to go down, and how far down?

USGS Current Conditions for USGS 09361500 ANIMAS RIVER AT DURANGO, CO

The San Juan is starting to go up at Shiprock, presumably the result of the Animas flows.

USGS Current Conditions for USGS 09368000 SAN JUAN RIVER AT SHIPROCK, NM

Navajo reservoir is putting 300 cfs into the San Juan, a flat line.

USGS Current Conditions for USGS 09355500 SAN JUAN RIVER NEAR ARCHULETA, NM

So should we launch? Why or why not?

Scratching my head, with a puzzled look,
Richard

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Old 05-15-2013   #2
 
Durango, Colorado
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The San Juan at Bluff is very low right now, but it's going to start coming up, likely later today. The "steps" you see in the Animas are just diurnal variations- in the daytime snow melts faster, in the night the melt slows.

See the response I left in Navajo Operations thread.
https://www.mountainbuzz.com/forums/f...nge-47602.html

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Reclamation
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Durango, CO
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Old 05-15-2013   #3
 
Idaho Falls, Idaho
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For what it's worth, we did a trip down the SJ in March at 450 cfs with 16 foot gear boats. It was easily do-able at those flows. Count on the trip being slower than it would be at higher flows, and also realize that you will have a tough time in a couple areas. As long as you are OK dragging your boat a bit and go into the trip with the attitude that getting stuck briefly is OK, you will have a blast. On a positive note, the sand bars in the lower 20 miles are pretty evident at flows below 500, so avoiding them is easier than at higher flows.
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Old 05-15-2013   #4
 
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Buena Vista, Colorado
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In IK's and canoe's I would definitely still go for it. 7 days should be sufficient, although I would want more time for hiking and so you don't have to push as hard.
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Old 05-15-2013   #5
 
Durango, CO
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It takes 3 days for flows to get from Durango to Bluff. Farmington to Bluff is 1.5 days.

We had some cool and wet weather in the mountains last week, which caused the Animas to drop from ~1800cfs to ~600 cfs in Durango, which is the cause for the dismal flows this week on the San Juan. The "steps" you see are due to the increase in runoff during the day and decrease at night. I think it was a good thing for the cool weather...I think it'll just extend the life of the (weak) snowpack.


Either way, the Animas went up to 1500 yesterday and already today it's well over 2000cfs. And aside from some irrigation diversions and evaportive losses all of that water is on it's way to Bluff.

Snowtel sights in the San Juans are showing not-a-lot of snow, though most snotel sights are around 10,000' and we have a fair amount of snow above that elevation.

I'm guessing (and this is also Silas' guess) that the flows on the San Juan will be over a thousand starting tomorrow through early June.

Disclaimer: I'm talking completely out of my ass. I'm not a hydologist nor am I educated on the subject at all. I have a June 2 Mexican Hat launch and I'm just trying to stay positve!

EDIT: I didn't see S.Kovak's reply. said it better in less words.
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Old 05-15-2013   #6
 
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Durango, Colorado
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We are putting in at Mexican Hat tomorrow! I've been crossing my fingers and looking at the observations and forecasts here on the CBRFC page. It looks like it will be bony when we start out (and some of the group have big rafts - as I recall Gypsum Creek is a rock garden at low flow) but quickly up to 1000+ cfs. The hard parts at low water are a rocky spot near Johns, Government Rapid, and not hitting bottom in the frogwater after Slickhorn, but by the time we get there, and certainly when you get there, there will be plenty of water.

I was also confused by the relation between the Animas and the San Juan. The Animas dropped a lot last week due to cooler weather, but it didn't get nearly as low as the SJ. I assume it's water being diverted for irrigation and filling Lake Nightmare. The flow at Cedar Hill is about half the flow in Durango.

Susan, thanks for the info in the other thread. I didn't realize it's a weekly average minimum and not an instantaneous floor.
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Old 05-15-2013   #7
 
Los Alamos, New Mexico
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I cannot express how cool it is that you contribute to these threads.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sjnovak3 View Post
The San Juan at Bluff is very low right now, but it's going to start coming up, likely later today. The "steps" you see in the Animas are just diurnal variations- in the daytime snow melts faster, in the night the melt slows.

See the response I left in Navajo Operations thread.
https://www.mountainbuzz.com/forums/f...nge-47602.html

--
Susan Novak Behery, P.E.
Hydrologic Engineer
Reclamation
Western Colorado Area Office
Durango, CO
[email protected]
970-385-6560
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Old 05-15-2013   #8
 
Durango, Colorado
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Most of the loss on the San Juan and Animas is due to irrigation and diversions for power and municipal uses, and some evaporation. There hasn't actually been pumping from the Animas for Lake Nighthorse since 2011, and it probably won't pump again till next year. Looking at the upstream gage's will tell you what pattern you to expect downstream (I.e. rising or falling, etc.), but not necessarily all that flow will make it to Bluff.
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Old 05-15-2013   #9
 
Durango, Colorado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gbmaz View Post
I cannot express how cool it is that you contribute to these threads.
No prob, I'm a boater too!
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Old 05-15-2013   #10
 
Fort Collins, Colorado
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Thanks

Thanks to all for your replies, and a special thanks to Ms. Novak.

Looking forward to the trip.

Richard
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