The streamflow in the Yampa River bounced back to more than 100 cubic feet per second last week thanks to a pair of rainstorms. And the river remained above that benchmark Monday morning, much to the delight of commercial tubing outfitters.
The Yampa was flowing at 108 cfs at 5:15 a.m. Monday after a modest spike Wednesday and a more dramatic spike Thursday. Both jumps in streamflow can be attributed to rainstorms that sent water rocketing down Fish Creek Canyon and into the Yampa.
"We didn't have much rain here in downtown Steamboat, but it rained somewhere in the drainage because the river rose threefold," Ken Vertrees of Blue Sky West said.
Vertrees, whose company rents inner tubes for rides down the river below Fifth Street, said the rainfall pushed tubing levels into the ideal range during the weekend.
Officially, Steamboat received a little more than one-tenth of an inch of rain Wednesday and a little more than two-tenths Friday. However, local amounts varied. The hard gneiss and schist rock formations in Fish Creek Canyon don't soak up much of the moisture, and the stream responded, jumping from 10 cfs on July 14 to 40 cfs on Wednesday and 100 cfs on Thursday.
The Yampa measuring station at Fifth Street is downstream from the confluence of Fish Creek, and the flows from the creek were reflected in the river. The Yampa was below 90 cfs on July 14 but rose above 200 cfs at Fifth Street on Thursday.
Several other streams help tubing levels below Fifth Street, Vertrees pointed out. Spring Creek, Butcherknife Creek and in particular Soda Creek, all augment the flow.
Vertrees said his company consults with the city of Steamboat Springs daily on management issues. He said when the river drops to 100 cfs, Blue Sky advises customers to expect low flows. However, they don't receive complaints at that river level, he said.
Vertrees acknowledged the few local commercial tubing operators were concerned early in the summer that this could be a short season. Snowpack levels in May suggested the river could drop below 100 cfs and stay there.
If a pattern of regular rain showers continues, he said, the tubing season will be able to continue.
The city of Steamboat Springs regulates commercial tubing by ordinance and caps rentals at 433 Monday through Thursday, allowing 500 on Fridays and 915 on Saturdays and Sundays.
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