Whitewater rafting flows below McPhee Dam are continuing, thanks to increasing snowmelt.
An 18-day boating release is scheduled from June 6-23, according to the Dolores Water Conservancy District.
Flows will jump to 800 cubic feet per second beginning Thursday, then ramp up to 1,200 cfs by Friday. Flows could reach 2,000 cfs, depending on inflow into McPhee Reservoir.
A previous 10-day release for boaters was held over the Memorial Day weekend and accommodated fish surveys by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The flows were briefly lowered to 400 cfs then began to ramp up this week.
Based on the margin of error in current inflow forecasts, it is possible there will be additional rafting days past June 23.
Managers have confirmed that McPhee Reservoir will fill, and irrigators will receive their full allocation this year.
Snowfall that came in at 144 percent of normal this winter is hanging on at high elevations because of cooler temperatures. But a recent warming spell has triggered rapid snowmelt into the Dolores River and reservoir. Runoff beyond the capacity of the 380,000-acre-foot reservoir is released for downstream recreational and ecological benefits below the dam.
The 97-mile stretch of the Dolores River from Bradfield Bridge to Bedrock is sought by boaters for its challenging rapids and remote, red-rock canyon wilderness. No permit is required to boat the Dolores River, but there are river regulations.
The three- to five-day Slick Rock-to-Bedrock section through winding Slick Rock Canyon offers a pristine river running experience. The 18-mile, one-day Ponderosa Gorge has convenient access and is accessed via the Bradfield Bridge on the San Juan National Forest.
Downstream of the gorge is expert Snaggletooth Rapid, especially notorious for drenching boaters and occasionally flipping boats. A road along the river accessed from Dove Creek is a popular spot to spend the day watching boaters negotiate the wild hydraulics created by the rapid’s “fangs”
The Bureau of Land Management will have rangers assisting boaters on the river and directing traffic and put-ins and take-outs, said ranger David Saunders. Portable toilets will be set up at the BLM’s Gypsum Valley put-in. A private access point at Slick Rock will be open with a small fee for parking.