High water on Yampa River prompts flood warnings | CraigDailyPress.com
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High water on Yampa River prompts flood warnings

Derek Maiolo / Steamboat Pilot & Today
The Yampa River flows through Steamboat Springs near Rich Weiss Park.
Eleanor C. Hasenbeck/Steamboat Pilot & Today

It’s that time of year again when the water levels rise in and around Steamboat Springs, prompting public flood warnings.

On Monday, the flow of the Yampa River had risen to more than 2,000 cubic feet per second, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey. The flow has decreased slightly since then, due mainly to fluctuations in snow melt and temperature. 

Portions of the Yampa River Core Trail have been closed due to high water, according to Craig Robinson, parks open space and trail manager for Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation. Signs have been posted in those areas directing people to detours. Most of the trail closures are on underpasses, Robinson said.

“This happens every year with the annual runoff cycle that we have,” he said of the trail closures.

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The fields at Emerald Park also may become inundated with water in the near future, Robinson added. This is a result both of increased flow on the Yampa River and rising ground water. 

In a news release, Colorado Parks and Wildlife advised people to be safe while recreating on rivers, lakes and reservoirs, particularly with the colder water. In recent days, the temperature of the Yampa River has been decreasing to below 40 degrees, which is cold enough to cause a rapid onset of hypothermia and loss of breathing control that could be life-threatening, according to the National Center for Cold Water Safety

One of the best ways to prevent cold water injuries is to wear a personal floatation device, such as a life jacket, on the water, CPW advised.

The Yampa River likely will continue to rise and flow at faster rates in the coming weeks, according to Tom Martindale, streets supervisor for the city of Steamboat Springs. The river usually peaks in late May or early June, he said. This comes after snowpack reaches its peak in the higher elevations and warmer temperatures send the melted snow downstream.

The smaller tributaries that feed into the Yampa River likely have reached or neared their peak levels, Martindale added. He regularly surveys Butcherknife Creek and Soda Creek, checking also for any debris, such as trees, that could dam the waterways and lead to flooding. So far, he has not seen any major issues.

“Everything is looking good to me,” Martindale said.

Overall, Martindale does not expect any significant flooding issues this spring, due largely to cooler temperatures that have kept snowmelt rates down.

“It’s been a really mellow year,” he said of the flooding conditions.

Last year, in June 2019, several homes and ranches in Routt County had to defend against high water after a series of heavy rain and snow storms. Some residents loaded up their horses and took them to neighboring farms to protect them from flooded pastures. Others requested help on social media to set up sandbags around their homes.

The city currently is offering sand and sandbags for residents who want to fortify their homes against flooding. As of Tuesday, the city had set up two collection sites: one at Missouri Avenue and North Park Road, the other at Short and James streets. A third site at Eighth Street and Crawford Avenue will be established this week, Martindale said.

To take advantage of this service, call the Steamboat Springs Streets Division offices at 970-879-1807. The offices are open 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. If calling after hours, contact nonemergency dispatch at 970-879-1144.


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