Boating season begins early as McPhee Reservoir fills

Thursday, March 30, 2017 3:12 AM
The Dolores Water Conservancy District on Wednesday released water from McPhee Reservoir at a rate of 200 cubic feet per second.
The whitewater release from McPhee Reservoir is expected to increase Friday to 800 cubic feet per second.
Deer along the Lower Dolores River scatter on Wednesday.
The Dolores Water Conservancy District is ramping up releases from the McPhee Reservoir.
The whitewater season begins on the Lower Dolores River this week.

A boating release on the Dolores River below McPhee Dam will begin earlier than expected, water managers announced Monday.

A warm March has started the runoff early into McPhee Reservoir, which is nearly full. Therefore, managers will begin releasing excess water below the dam this week.

Flows will begin ramping up on Wednesday, March 29, and reach 800 cubic feet per second by Friday, March 31. By Saturday, April 1, flows will reach 1,200 cfs.

Ken Curtis, an engineer with the Dolores Water Conservancy District, reported that a sunny, warm March released runoff early, and recent storms have continued to increase snowpack in the mountains. The reservoir will fill this year, and all farmers will receive their full allocation, he said.

The Dolores River Basin received above-normal snowpack this winter. Recent record warm days translated into an isothermal snowpack across Colorado that is all poised to start melting.

“Although there was some warning, it became very apparent last week that the runoff was coming in much higher and sooner than normal,” Curtis said. “The recent storms and cloud cover has steadied the inflow, but irrigation has not started, and McPhee continues to rise.”

Storms are possible for another 10-14 days. The cooler weather will only slow the rising runoff, not stop the inflow.

Flows below the dam are expected to reach 2,000 cfs next week, and managers still intend to release a 4,000 cfs later in the spring.

The next update will be posted on Monday, April 3, at under the releases tab. Also go to the Dolores River Boating Advocate’s website at for information on the whitewater release.

Beware traffic at Dove Creek sitePlease be careful of heavy traffic in and out of the Dove Creek Pumps launch site. The road narrows, and trucks with trailers cannot pass each other at certain points. Consideration of others and patience are appreciated here.

Slickrock takeouts on private landDolores River Boating Advocates are working to coordinate the takeouts at Slickrock. Both locations are on private property so respect all rules to keep them open for the future.

Delays expected at Bedrock BridgeThe Colorado Department of Transportation cautions river users who plan to recreate near Bedrock that a temporary low bridge is in place allowing only limited river clearance. Beginning in mid-April, boaters will encounter up to half-hour river closures in that short section to accommodate heavy equipment activity during construction of the new Colorado Highway 90 bridge.