Yampa River water levels decrease from early summer
Still, experts caution river users about above average levels
July 23, 2011
The rush of the Yampa River may be significantly less than it was two months ago, but the discharge can hardly be called low.
Yampa River State Park Manager Ron DellaCroce said water levels in the river have "dropped substantially" from where they were in mid-May.
However, the water is still surging at an above average rate.
"It's at least three times the normal level," said.
DellaCroce said measurements taken by the U.S. Geological Survey at areas around Moffat and Routt counties showed the levels still left are "cause for concern."
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Compared to where the water's levels were in May, recreational users can expect to see a much safer environment. Two months ago, the discharge level for the river near Craig was 10,400 cubic feet per second, while a Friday reading of the area showed that it was down to 3,290.
At the Yampa's Hayden location, USGS measured 2,560 cubic feet per second in Friday afternoon's reading, down from May's 7,700. Farther downriver, the Maybell section charted at 3,740 cubic feet per second on Friday, a considerable dip from May's 11,900.
Still, the flow is higher than it should be for July, DellaCroce said.
"The reading we have (for Friday) is the highest we've had for this date since 1957," he said. "The levels we have are what we'd normally see in June."
Such a fact was not lost on Craig resident Shayne Zimmerman, who was on the banks of the Yampa at Pebble Beach near Yampa Valley Golf Course on Friday afternoon, ready to begin tubing with a group of friends.
As a tubing enthusiast, Zimmerman has floated the river many times, but the extreme water conditions hampered his plans this year.
"We usually start about the second week of June, but we had to wait until the water went down, this year," he said.
After a wet spring with risky river conditions and flooding, Yampa River State Park opened all public access gates at the end of June.
DellaCroce said parts of the river have been littered with unusually high amounts of debris such as tree branches, which people need to be aware of while on the water.
"It's a great time for boating and rafting and tubing, but people still need to use extreme caution," he said. "Everyone needs to be wearing lifejackets and parents need to keep up with their kids."
Sheela Baker was also at Pebble Beach on Friday to take advantage of the safer water levels with her friends and family.
"We come out here quite a bit, but we had to wait a lot this year for the levels to go down," she said. "We wait all winter for this."
Baker and her children swim at the location, and she does occasionally float down the body of water with friends. Even with the water level lower than earlier in the summer, Baker said she was wary about letting her children go too far into the current and losing control.
"You've got to keep an eye on your kids because it doesn't matter if they're wearing a lifejacket or not, they're still floating away," she said. "I heard somebody saying that it takes about two hours to float from (Pebble Beach) to Loudy-Simpson (Park), and a guy last week did it in 27 minutes. So it's pretty fast."