McPhee reservoir managers have released an update on the whitewater schedule for boaters on the Lower Dolores River below the dam.
Releases will reach optimum flows of 1,900 cfs to 2,100 cfs through May 1. Between May 2 and May 8, releases are planned for 2,100 cfs. Reservoir managers are scheduling flush flows of 4,000 cfs from May 4 to May 6. The high flows are designed to mimic the natural hydrograph and provide environmental benefits such as scouring the main channel and dispersing native seeds onto the flood plain.
After the flushing flows, the dam release will ramp to 800 to 1,200 cfs while McPhee Reservoir fills before Memorial Day. Forecasts still project sufficient runoff for boatable releases below the dam into early June.
Inflow into the reservoir remains high, but will fluctuate as a series of cold fronts push through, along with mountain precipitation. Inflow rates and reservoir elevations are driving whitewater spill operations.
Rampdown is not expected until early June, but that schedule could change depending on spring weather. Melting snow will provide boatable levels below the dam for an estimated 45 days. When the Dolores River inflow matches the McPhee dam outflow, the final rampdown will occur.
Rampdown will be from 800 cfs to 600 cfs over 24 hours, and then hold for 24 hours. This pattern repeats through 400 cfs, then 200 cfs then to base flows of 75 cfs.
Slickrock access is available on private property, 200 yards downstream of the Colorado Highway 141 bridge on river left. There is a charge to use this river access. Do not use the old private boat ramp on river right upstream of the bridge, as it is not accessible this season.
For free public river access, go to the BLM’s Gypsum Valley River Access site, 25 road miles from Slick Rock, via Colorado 141 and County Road 20R.
Fire dangerConditions on the river, especially below Gypsum Valley, have been reported as very dry and risk of campfires getting out of control is a serious concern, BLM officials report. Last year’s grasses are dry and not yet replaced by green spring growth. Additionally, spring winds are picking up. Keep any cooking fires small, and always use your fire pan and blanket. Select an area for your fire pan that is away from dry fuels. Monitor the wind, and ensure your fire is cold before going to bed. Have water and a shovel at hand at all times.
Boaters report excellent river conditions from Bradfield Bridge to Bedrock and beyond. Slickrock Canyon is recommended for its wilderness qualities, excellent hiking and lively, but not too difficult rapids.
Jay Loschert, of Dolores River Boating Advocates, reports the campsites in Slickrock canyon are a bit overgrown, but are improving as people use them. Bighorn rams with full horns have been seen on the cliffs upstream from Coyote Wash, he said.
For more information, visit doloreswater.com.