Heavy monsoon rains have temporarily revived the boating season on the Dolores River, and improved conditions on McPhee Reservoir.
The Dolores River upstream of Dolores surged to 700 cubic feet per second on July 25, up from 125 cfs on July 23.
The spike in flows attracted kayakers to run the stretch between the West Fork and town over the weekend.
“It was fun. We scraped a bit here and there. The rapids were pretty lively and storm clouds were all around,” said boater Linda Robinson who kayaked with friends Sunday.
There were no hazards or fences, but the muddy-colored water made it a challenge to see underwater rocks.
Keep an eye out for cattle fencing, sometimes installed across the river during low water, that may still be in place when flows spike.
On Tuesday, the river was flowing at 450 cfs, enough for a kayak or light raft to maneuver, but expect to hit bottom in places.
Flows at Rico were 400 cfs on July 25, and dropped to 150 cfs on Tuesday. Flows at Gateway below the San Miguel confluence were 300 cfs Tuesday.
Boaters are urged to be extra cautious, said Sam Carter of the Dolores River Boating Advocates.
The sudden rise in water approaches flash flood conditions, he said, and can create unexpected hazards such as hidden logjams and debris.
McPhee benefitsThe extra river flows also helped to temporarily stabilize McPhee Reservoir levels, said Ken Curtis, general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District.
The past few days of rains loaded up the river and dumped about 4,000 acre-feet of water into McPhee, he said.
“It has helped hold the reservoir level steady, with a little less going out and a little more coming in,” Curtis said.
A lot of irrigators turned off their water during the heavy rains, he said.
But the increase in water is not expected to boost supply allocations for individual irrigators, Curtis said. Farmers received 90% of their allocation this season.
Lack of monsoonal rain last year kept the reservoir from filling as expected after the winter snowmelt. More runoff than predicted sunk into the abnormally dry soil.
The recent monsoonal rains boosted Cortez to 110% of normal precipitation for July, said Jim Andrus, a weather observer for the National Weather Service.
The first 18 days of July were dry, and the next eight days brought 1.34 inches of rain.
But year-to-date precipitation for Cortez is still below normal at 3.85 inches, or 61% of the 6.30-inch average through July.
The welcomed boost in boating and irrigation water will be short-lived, as the monsoons take a break this week. Sunny days are expected for the next six days, according to the National Weather Service.