What are the chances of an early May Chama? - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 03-28-2013   #1
 
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peoria, Arizona
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What are the chances of an early May Chama?

Never draw so have always gone before permit season opens or mid-week during the first couple of weeks when there is run-off.

The reclamation folks are usually helpful but non-committal with the snow/El Vado level looking dismal right now.

Would you gamble on a 500+ mile roadtrip first or second week in May with the current situation?

Gene

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Old 03-28-2013   #2
Kjirsten
 
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Durango, Colorado
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Permit season starts May 1st, so they will have better beta for the weekends after that. If the weekend looks good, you could launch on Thursday without a permit and camp near the put in if the water is too low still- then watch it come up Friday morning...
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Old 03-28-2013   #3
 
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If you go during the week, between 5/1 and 5/11, there is an 80% probability that you will have sufficient volume to float a raft based only on historical El Vado release data from the last five years. Later in May and through June your odds drop to 50% or less for a weekday run. The San Juan Mountains snow pack is above last year's average and approaching normal so you might get lucky.
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Old 03-29-2013   #4
suigeneris
 
loveland, Colorado
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chama

What is the likely flow this year based on historical release associated with average snowpack before permit season on or about April 26th? Is the reported kayak minimum to bother with it about 300cfs?
Thx
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Old 03-31-2013   #5
 
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peoria, Arizona
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Flows are dictated by contracts/legal issues.

I had always operated under the assumption you could always catch some water the first couple weeks of the season. This year they let so much water out early that I'm afraid that pattern won't hold.

Quote:
Originally Posted by suigeneris View Post
What is the likely flow this year based on historical release associated with average snowpack before permit season on or about April 26th? Is the reported kayak minimum to bother with it about 300cfs?
Thx
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Old 04-01-2013   #6
 
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Albuquerque, New Mexico
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El Vado is Dry

I wouldn't look at the last 5 years, as this year the lake level is in an entirely different state - empty. They ran it all summer and fall last year to empty the lake, I believe to make repairs to the rusty metal dam. Now they have to try and fill the lake during a serious drought.

Even if I had a permit this year I'd be nervous, I'm not sure the runoff will be sufficient to run the river on the weekends, even if that has priority over retaining water in El Vado.

The only mentionable reservoir above El Vado is Heron Lake, and it's not much above 50% if that. Sorry to bear bad news, but it's worth knowing if you're planning the Chama at all this year.
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Old 04-02-2013   #7
suigeneris
 
loveland, Colorado
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release

Spoke with Mark at Santa Fe ranger office and he said they are releasing for irrigation demand already and to meet minimum reserve levels at reservoir below Vado. He also thought 300cfs for a kayak would be barely acceptable for an enjoyable trip thru chama canyon due to headwinds and lack of current. Does any of this sound about right?
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Old 04-02-2013   #8
 
Conifer, Colorado
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A few years ago we ran into some boaters from Albuquerque who told us the run it regularly at that level (300 cfs) with 12-14' boats. They said it was extremely channelized but doable. Personally I have never seen it at this level.
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Old 04-02-2013   #9
 
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I have a feeling they will have to let the majority of runoff through the dam since the Chama is the primary source of water for the Albuquerque metro area. Don't forget they divert a significant amount of water through the Oso tunnel from the Rio Blanco and upper Navajo too.
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Old 04-02-2013   #10
 
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Albuquerque, New Mexico
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suigeneris View Post
Spoke with Mark at Santa Fe ranger office and he said they are releasing for irrigation demand already and to meet minimum reserve levels at reservoir below Vado. He also thought 300cfs for a kayak would be barely acceptable for an enjoyable trip thru chama canyon due to headwinds and lack of current. Does any of this sound about right?
They did kick it up to ~170CFS, if that's what he means by releasing - here's the gauge below the dam:

USGS Current Conditions for USGS 08285500 RIO CHAMA BELOW EL VADO DAM, NM

300 sounds like an appropriate minimum, although the lowest I've ever gone is ~450 and that was just the lower portion day trip.

Albuquerque still gets the majority of drinking water from the aquifer, and there's Abiquiu and Cochiti lakes downstream from El Vado to release water for irrigation. There is no irrigation between El Vado and Abiquiu, so whether they release significant water from Heron and El Vado this year is completely optional, although I don't know all the legal details.

Here's your lake levels (they have been dumping water from Heron into El Vado since I last checked):

NWCC - Reservoir Storage Graph

I hope everyone has a great Chama float this summer, but I'm very very nervous and am looking elsewhere this year. (I also didn't pull a permit so I'm figuring weekdays and shoulder season are much more at risk than weekend permit holders).
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