Steamboat-area rivers steady, projected to rise |

Steamboat-area rivers steady, projected to rise

Weather Service projects what happens at certain flood stages

The tunnel that was passable Friday morning near Howelsen Hill was mostly full by late afternoon. Water is visible pouring in on the left-hand side.

— Cooler weather kept the Yampa River flowing Saturday at levels similar to those seen Friday.

Overnight, the river peaked at about 4,000 cubic feet per second, and the depth at the Fifth Street Bridge remained at about 6.5 feet. At 8:15 a.m Saturday, the depth had dropped to 6.3 feet.

The Elk River had receded Saturday since Friday. It was measured at 7.31 feet Saturday morning, down from 7.88 feet observed Friday at 3 a.m. The high water forced one family to evacuate its home at Saddle Mountain Ranch about eight miles west of Steamboat Springs along U.S. Highway 40.

"It receded and gave us a chance to repair some of the berms and wait for the bigger water," ranch owner Tony Connell said Saturday.

The Elk River was expected to reach 8.6 feet at the measuring station this morning, 9 feet Monday morning and 9.1 feet Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. Moderate flood stage starts at 8.5 feet, and major flood stage is 9.5 feet.

"So far we've seen water before at this level, but what is predicted, never," Connell said.

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The Yampa also is forecast to get higher along with temperatures. It was sunny all day and temperatures reached the upper 70s in Steamboat on Saturday, aiding the melting of record snowpacks.

By 6 a.m. today, the National Weather Service predicted the Yampa would be 6.8 feet at Fifth Street. On Monday, it is expected to reach 7.4 feet, and on Tuesday, it is forecast to reach 7.9 feet.

According to the Weather Service, with the Yampa at 8.1 feet, water will reach the foundations of buildings near Yampa and Ninth streets, specifically Backdoor Sports.

Property owners along Soda Creek in downtown Steamboat are watching the creek closely and have sandbags filled in preparation for higher water.

"They're all ready to go, and we'll put them up as soon as we need to," said Lynn Worrell, who owns the home at 850 Aspen St. with her husband, Larry.

She said the creek will spill its banks some years and they are used to it. Water has never reached her home, Worrell said.

"The neighbors all get together and help each other out if it takes place," she said.

What rising levels mean

Here is what the Weather Service says happens when the water reaches certain levels (in feet) at Fifth Street.

  • 5: Portions of the Yampa River Core Trail, especially in Yampa River Park and Emerald Park, are flooded.
  • 6: Portions of the baseball and soccer fields in Emerald Field are flooded.
  • 6.2: Out-of-bank flow begins in Dream Island Mobile Home Park on U.S. Highway 40 on the west end of Steamboat Springs.
  • 6.5: The Yampa River has reached bankfull in several places, and some flooding of undeveloped land is occurring.
  • 7: Some minor flooding of low-lying agricultural land along the Yampa River upstream and downstream of Steamboat is occurring.
  • 7.5: Minor flooding is occurring along the Yampa River in Steamboat. Water is flowing across some properties adjacent to the river and is approaching buildings.
  • 8.1: Water reaches the foundations of buildings near Yampa and Ninth streets, including Backdoor Sports.
  • 8.4: Water is approaching buildings along Yampa Street between Fifth Street and Seventh Street, including The Boathouse Pub.
  • 8.69: Portions of Yampa Street are beginning to flood. The intersection at Yampa and Ninth streets is flooded.
  • 9.8: Water reaches the bottom of the Fifth Street Bridge over the Yampa River.
  • 10: Water reaches the railroad crossing near the intersection of Fifth Street and Howelsen Parkway.
  • 10.5: The intersection of Howelsen Parkway and Fifth Street near Howelsen Park is flooding.
  • 12.5: Water is flowing over the Fifth Street Bridge and other bridges along the Yampa River in Steamboat, including at 13th Street.
  • 13.5: Many portions of Yampa Street are flooded and impassable. Buildings adjacent to the river are flooded. Water has reached some buildings between Yampa Street and Lincoln Avenue.
  • 19.5: The intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Ninth Street is beginning to flood.
  • 25.5: Water is near the intersection of Fifth Street and Lincoln Avenue. Major flooding and flood damage is occurring.

— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email

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