Steamboat’s flirtation with springlike weather comes to a frigid halt |

Steamboat’s flirtation with springlike weather comes to a frigid halt

Tom Ross
Erik Besselman battles the swift current of the Yampa River last week in his kayak near downtown Steamboat Springs. The river still was flowing at 1,030 cubic feet per second Monday afternoon, more than twice the median flow for the date of 461 cfs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Scott Franz

— The Yampa River in Steamboat Springs has responded to the wild weather swings of the past five days, including an official high temperature of 65 degrees, with a flow chart that evokes the old wooden roller coaster at Elitch Gardens in Denver.

The Yampa climbed daily beginning Wednesday until Sunday night, when it nearly touched 1,500 cubic feet per second. Overnight into Monday, the river began freefalling with a temperature that was as high as 12 degrees along the river at dawn.

However, the river still was flowing at 1,030 cfs Monday afternoon, more than twice the median flow for the date of 461 cfs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The record flow for the date was the 2,070 cfs recorded April 14, 1930.

The last week’s unseasonably warm April temperatures sent kayakers to Charlie’s Hole opposite the Bud Werner Memorial Library on the river in Steamboat to surf the standing wave. And more adventuresome rafters and kayakers headed west of Craig to the Yampa where it flows through Cross Mountain Canyon for some of the best whitewater of the entire season.

Expert rafter and kayaker Eugene Buchanan said that by the second to third week in May, flows in Cross Mountain will be unsafe for most whitewater enthusiasts as heavy flows build. The river will reach recreational flows again sometime late in June, then drop steeply on the back side of the hydrograph, he said.

The recorded high temperatures in Steamboat last week included: April 8 at 59 degrees; April 9 at 63 degrees; April 10 at 57 degrees; April 11 at 65 degrees; and April 12 at 63 degrees. On Monday morning, unofficial weather observer Art Judson recorded 5.5 inches of snow at his weather station in the preceding 24 hours. That brought his winter-long total for the valley to 209.4 inches.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports the average daily high temperature for Steamboat Springs in April is 53.5 degrees, rising to 64 degrees in May. The “normal” high temperature for April 15 is 53 degrees with the overnight low of 26 degrees, according to NOAA.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction was predicting a freeze warning for the Grand Valley on Tuesday morning and meteorologist Joe Ramey predicted mountainous areas north of Interstate 70 could see light snow accumulations Tuesday night.

The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, which relies on the long-term forecast from the National Weather Service, was predicting Monday that the Yampa would continue to calm down until Saturday, when temperatures could begin to rise.

For the record, Ramey’s colleague at the Weather Service, Aldis Strautins wrote Monday that weather models for the weekend have yet to come into focus. However, the Monday forecast for Easter weekend is calling for a high of 58 degrees on Good Friday followed by a high of 59 degrees under partly sunny skies Saturday and Sunday.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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