Dolores Spill Update - Mountain Buzz

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Old 03-27-2017   #1
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 221
Dolores Spill Update

FYI. This is a fast-changing spill, and the timing is based on weather conditions. The warm up is forcing the date up. See below for details, or go to for updates.

Susan Novak Behery, P.E.
Hydraulic Engineer
Western Colorado Area Office
Durango, CO
[email protected]

For Navajo Reservoir Operations and information, visit

March 27, 2017: Current hydrologic conditions will require McPhee to “spill” this year.

McPhee Releases Ramping Up later this week.

Summary: A warm March has started the runoff early and driving McPhee elevations up, approaching 6915 and rising. Therefore we will start ramping up flows this Wednesday March 29, 2017. McPhee releases will reach 800 CFS by Friday March 31, 2017 and 1,200 CFS by Saturday April 1, 2017. Updates will start more regularly next Monday. Continue to watch the releases below McPhee at Detail Graph and the gages linked below.

March stayed dry up until last week. Since then we’ve received two storms with more on the way. What’s been more of an impact were the warmer sunny days for most of March. Those record warm days translated into an isothermal snow pack across Colorado that is all poised to start melting. Although there was some warning, it became very apparent last week that the runoff was coming in much higher and sooner than normal. We often see some early melt then cooler weather that slows down the runoff. The recent storms and cloud cover has steadied the inflow, but irrigation has not started and McPhee continues to rise. Storms are possible for another 10 -14 days, but will only slow the rising runoff, not stop the inflow.

We expect to reach 2,000 CFS flows next week and still intend to release higher 4,000 CFS releases later in spring, but are still adjusting plans to the changing runoff. We will post the next update Monday April 3 and again later next week when we receive an April 1st forecast from CBRFC.

Several Notices:

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.

SLICKROCK: DRBA is working to coordinate the take out at Slickrock, not sure if it will be old or new one. Both locations are on private property so please respect all rules to keep them open for the future. More at the DRBA site: Dolores River Boating Advocates.

American Whitewater likewise has good information about this year’s rafting opportunities and details for boaters at American Whitewater - 02. Bradfield Launch (McPhee Reservoir) to Dove Creek Pump Station, Dolores Colorado, US.

BEDROCK BRIDGE: Remember that CDOT has bridge work going on at Bedrock that may require short delays for safe passage. Please see their website at and look for signs, spotters and other guidance from the contractor, SEMA Construction.

Rico Gage:

Dolores Gage:

McPhee Elevation & Capacity: Tabular Data

Dolores below McPhee: Detail Graph

Slickrock Gage:

Bedrock Gage:

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.

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Old 03-27-2017   #2
Cortez, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 186
Thanks for posting this, Susan!
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Old 03-27-2017   #3
Durango South, 4CRS
Paddling Since: 07
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 201
Good news, thanks!

Can anybody give an update on the slickrock access situation? Will it be possible to take out there this weekend? Big thanks to DRBA for the work you guys do!
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. - Helen Keller
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Old 03-27-2017   #4
Cortez, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 186
Originally Posted by yakr View Post
Good news, thanks!

Can anybody give an update on the slickrock access situation? Will it be possible to take out there this weekend? Big thanks to DRBA for the work you guys do!
I know of no update or news on the Slickrock access. A fellow board member is in communication with the owners of both properties (river right, above the bridge, and river left, below the bridge) and will hopefully have something to announce soon. I'll check with him. This spill update has caught us all by surprise.
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Old 03-28-2017   #5
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Western Slope, CO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2009
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 285
Lacking any other news, I would assume the river left after the bridge access for $7 per day parking. ( Or whatever rate ) We ran after the crowd last year and the owners of the store were pleased with how well everything went and will most likely be open to doing it again. They said they had over 200 vehicles parked there at one point. If you are going late this week and no one is there yet, leave a note on your dash and settle up when you take out or come back to get your vehicle.

They also mentioned that some heavier raft groups had voiced that the take out there was quite fast at the peak flows last year which were less than the anticipated flows this year if those 4000 CFS flows do end up happening. If you are going to run Bradfield or Dove Creek to Slick Rock in a loaded raft at above 2000 CFS, go down and look at the river and make a plan for the takeout when you leave your vehicle there.

They also mentioned that the property owners of the other access are very unwilling to let that continue due to bad behavior of some groups in the past and general trashing of the area.
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