The Dolores River and its West Fork tributary are running high and fast but are not at flood stage, officials report.
The Dolores River at Dolores was flowing at 2,860 cubic feet per second Thursday, or about 170% of normal. It reached 3,340 cfs Tuesday, but flows dropped because cooler weather slowed the snowmelt. Flows had been steadily climbing since June 1, when it was running 1,400 cfs in town.
A warm weather spell has triggered a rapid increase in snowmelt from the high peaks of the Dolores Basin. Snowpack stayed in the mountains longer this year because of a cool spring and above-average snowpack.
Flood stage for the Dolores River in town is 8 feet, and Thursday morning it was at 5.7 feet, down from 6.1 feet Tuesday.
“We are monitoring the rivers very closely right now, and there have been no major problems,” said Montezuma County Emergency Planner Mike Pasquin. The emergency operations center is on standby, and the public will be informed in advance of flooding hazards, he said. There are no evacuation orders.
This week, the Mancos and La Plata rivers were put under a flood advisory by the National Weather Service until further notice.
An advisory means the public should have a heightened awareness of rivers running high and fast.
The flows along the Mancos River near Mancos will remain near bank full through the week, and there can be lowland flooding, said weather service hydrologist Aldis Stautins.
On Wednesday, the Mancos River at Mancos was at 4.86 feet, down from being bank full at 5.1 feet Tuesday. Flood stage for the Mancos River is 6 feet.
As of Wednesday, a river gauge measured the flow of the La Plata River at 4.6 feet, down from 5 feet Tuesday. A flood stage for the waterway is considered 5.5 feet.
Caution is urged when walking near waterways. Avoid flooded areas and unstable riverbanks. Landowners, farmers and ranchers should be moving equipment and belongings away from the river banks.
As a precautionary measure, sandbags have been delivered and are being prepositioned in Dolores and Mancos, Pasquin said. They will be made available for the public to protect residences and businesses if needed. Information on where to obtain the sandbags is forthcoming, he said.
Currently, the Dolores and West Fork rivers are within their banks, said Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin.
“There’s plenty of room still,” he said. “We are watching and monitoring and will alert the public if there are major changes. We have people along the rivers who will call us if they see major changes.”
Rafters should be aware of debris such as logs in the rivers. Some private bridges might not have clearance for boaters to pass underneath.
Nowlin said there are two low areas on the Dolores River along Road 37 that are prone to flooding at high water.
Residences have been contacted and precautions taken.
Creeks in the mountains are also running high, and are crossing some forest roads, Nowlin said. Drivers should avoid crossing flooded roads.
Groundwater levels are also high this year and have overflowed onto the surface.
San Juan National Forest officials are in contact with the West Dolores and Mavreeso campground hosts should flood hazards prompt closures or an evacuation.