Editorial: Yampa River is a blessing, sometimes a curse for Moffat County
This time last year, it was common to see tubers and kayakers on the Yampa lazily floating our iconic river near town. River flows were slower, the ground much drier. Mosquitoes were their normal, minor nuisance. The city and county’s few spraying regiments were enough to keep us comfortable. The fishing was probably a bit better too as the water settled into a clearer translucence compared to the muddy mire raging through town today.
Samantha Johnston, general manager for Colorado Mountain News Media-West
Clay Thorp, reporter
Pete Pleasant, community representative
Desiree Moore, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at editor@CraigDailyPress.com.
Firefighters were on edge this time last year. The hot dry air of our high desert came early, crisping the vegetation into the perfect fuel for devastating wildland fires that burned tens of thousands of acres in a flash of fire and heat. It seemed like there was a new fire every day for months; certainly there were weeks when a new fire started daily. 2018 was a dry year.
But 2019 hasn’t been a dry year. No, not by a long shot. According to state water officials, the Yampa’s high mark in June nearly tripled the median from the same time last year.
Our landscapes are green. Our livestock are fat and happy. The additional water in the Yampa Valley is a great thing for Moffat County and Craig.
While the high water has been a blessing in many ways, it’s also a curse.
The Yampa has reclaimed much of the low-lying areas of Craig, especially at Loudy Simpson Park, forcing the county to close much of the area near the soccer and softball fields due to standing water. Mosquitoes are thick at Loudy Simpson and the golf course, so if you’re into the new hike and bike trail or just want to walk the dog, bug spray is a must.
At least one mosquito south of town tested positive for West Nile virus, prompting regional public health officials to offer advice on how to best avoid being bitten. Best practices include finding and eliminating mosquito breeding sites by getting rid of all standing water around your home. Mosquitoes lay groups of eggs on the surface of water in rain barrels, bird baths, tin cans, old tires, car bodies, cisterns, roof gutters and any other containers that hold water, so folks are encouraged to drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers, clean pet water dishes regularly, and change the water in bird baths at least once a week.
It’s also good to use EPA-approved repellents that include active ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR 3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus applied sparingly only to exposed skin as saturation does not increase efficacy. Residents can also wear light-colored, loose fitting clothing, and long sleeves and pants, especially at dawn and dusk. Also remember to avoid applying repellents to portions of children’s hands that are likely to have contact with eyes or mouth.
City and county officials are executing their normal plans to spray portions of Craig and Moffat County, but more should and probably will be done by both government agencies in the coming months to control the mosquito population. There’s just so much standing water, and though the river level has been falling slowly, there are still many city and county residents suffering from millions of hungry blood suckers ready to make meals of all of us.
Though the risk of death posed by mosquitoes may be minor, the raging rivers of Northwest Colorado already claimed the life of a rafter near Triplet Falls this week. Let this be a warning to those who would venture onto the river without being prepared — the Yampa’s currents are stronger than the best swimmers. If you jump into the river, you will be carried far downstream and SWIFT boat crews may have to dislodge your tempest-tossed cadaver from beneath the river’s currents.
It’s getting hotter outside and the Yampa River can be a peaceful mainstay of residents’ outdoor life in Craig. But it’s also important to respect the river’s power and stay safe this summer while we enjoy the outdoors. If you venture out, take lots of water. Take lots of photos and feel free to send them to us. Try not to travel alone, and if you do, let friends or family know where you’re going. Just be sure to pack that bug spray.