Boulder Creek to be closed
Swift water causes ban starting on Wednesday
By Kim Castleberry and Chris Barge, Camera Staff Writers
May 24, 2005
Emergency officials are keeping rafters and inner tubers off swollen Boulder Creek in an attempt to prevent them from getting caught in snowmelt-driven rapids.
The Boulder County Sheriff's Office said it will close the creek at 7 a.m. Wednesday to watercraft from Barker Dam near Nederland to the Weld County Line, north of Erie.
High temperatures are quickly melting mountain snow, pumping rapid streamflows through the heart of Boulder.
"It seems like every year we get folks in distress because they are riding those high water levels," said Boulder County sheriff's Office Sgt. Mike Dimond. "This is just to head some of that off."
In 2003, two people drowned in South Boulder and South St. Vrain creeks after that year's blizzard and subsequent high temperatures caused spring waters to rage. Others had close calls on Boulder Creek before officials closed it for 12 days that year.
Dimond said there haven't been reports of people in danger of drowning this spring. Officials did not have a time frame for when the creek will re-open.
Kayakers and white-water canoeists are excluded from the ban, but the sheriff's office is urging them to use caution.
"The folks that do that are more trained, and they're in watercraft that are designed to handle that kind of water," Dimond said.
Gary Lacy, who lives by the creek, has more than 40 years of kayaking experience. He said he plans to be out there every day, but he warns that it's not for novices.
"We live for high water," Lacy said. "But Boulder Creek can be extremely dangerous for people not aware."
He said he's seen a lot of inner tubers capsizing the last couple of days and that the "dramatic flows" remind him of how the water was in 2003.
Boulder Creek was flowing at 550 cubic feet per second Monday afternoon. It's expected to peak between 680 and 740 cfs Wednesday.
A typical rate is 100 to 300 cfs.
South Boulder Creek and the St. Vrain River are not expected to be closed, the sheriff's office said, because water there is flowing well below the limit at which emergency officials would recommend closures.
An unusually swollen Boulder Creek already was causing joggers and cyclists to divert their paths on Monday.
Standing water up to six inches deep caused at least one closure along the Boulder Creek Path, at the Arapahoe Avenue underpass near 13th Street. Pools of water farther east, at underpasses near Boulder High School as well as Folsom Street, also required fancy footwork.
"This huge flow of water is from the high temperatures we've experienced," said Jane Nelson, Boulder Public Works spokeswoman. "This is not normal."
Marni Ratzel, bike and pedestrian planner for Boulder Public Works, said the bike path closure at Arapahoe Avenue was more because of a problem with a water pump than flooding.
In western Colorado, rivers swelled into icy torrents as record-setting temperatures melted deep mountain snows, prompting some residents to seek higher ground while others filled sandbags to protect their homes.
Rising rivers and streams also caused flooding in parts of Wyoming and Utah.
Riverbeds were brimming with 53-degree water near Durango, in the southwestern corner of Colorado, where a creek overflowed into a trailer park and several rafters had to be rescued from fast-moving water, said Brian Avery, National Weather Service hydrologist in Grand Junction.
Seven people were rescued from the Animas River in Durango on Monday after their raft overturned, said Butch Knowlton, emergency director for La Plata County.
"Almost every stream is running bank full or above," he said.
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