Local rivers at peak flows

Safety closures remain for Slate, East and Gunnison

[  By Katherine Nettles  ]

The recent heat waves across the Western Slope brought several rivers in the Gunnison Valley to what were likely peak flows last weekend, and the Gunnison County Sheriff Department has closed the Slate, East and Gunnison Rivers to all watercraft due to dangerous conditions and numerous bridges that are unnavigable. 

The Oh Be Joyful Steep Creek Race scheduled for Saturday, June 8, was canceled due to high flows and safety concerns, as well as two incidents that occurred on the creek the day before the race (see story on page 1).

Gunnison County emergency management director Scott Morrill said this week that it is not certain how long the closures will be in place, but with the predicted high flows continuing through the foreseeable future he did not expect them to be lifted before the weekend.

The National Weather Service and the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center had predicted peak flows on most rivers and creeks in the Gunnison Basin on Saturday and Sunday, and that flows would begin dropping off a bit this past week but remain elevated for a while given the substantial snowpack at elevations above 10,000 feet.

According to the US Geological Services (USGS) and National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), river gauges show that the Taylor River at Almont Resort reached a seasonal high thus far of more than 3.8 feet in height on June 9 and 10, and as of Tuesday, June 11 it was 3.6 feet, or 1,250 cubic feet per second (CFS). The East River below Cement Creek showed a seasonal peak thus far of 4.7 feet in height on June 9, and as of Tuesday that height was 4.4 feet or 1,900 CFS. The East River at Almont showed a height of almost 6.5 feet on June 9, and as of Tuesday it was closer to 6.2 feet or 1,900 CFS. The Gunnison River near Gunnison has a seasonal peak thus far of almost 3.9 feet high and as of June 11 was at 3.7 feet high or 3,400 CFS.

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