Rivers respond to recent moisture

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The rain and snow that soaked Labor Day weekend campers produced record streamflows in the Elk River on Tuesday, when the flow was measured at 188 cubic feet per second. The Yampa River also was above the seasonal average after spending the entire summer well below historic averages.

Barry Smith of Mountain Sports Kayak School said he hasn't seen an autumn resurgence in the rivers like this one since 1997. Paddlers are taking advantage, he added.

"The river is good for intermediates to go back out again," Smith said. "It's up about a foot. It's only the second time it has come up this summer. The last time was in July when we got rain and it was up 8 to 10 inches."

The U.S. Geological Service reported the Elk River was trickling along at 55 cubic feet per second Friday when the rain began. The measurement was taken at the confluence with the Yampa east of Milner. The rain began to fall later that day, and the streamflow quickly shot past 80 cfs and peaked above 200 cfs Sunday, when the historic median is just below 100 cfs.

The Elk River remained at 188 cfs Tuesday morning.

The Yampa was peaking at 50 cfs and dipping below 40 cfs during its daily cycle as recently as Aug. 17. The historic average for Aug. 17 is 130 cfs.

Flows in the Yampa River at the Fifth Street Bridge were healthier than those in the Elk River on Friday -- the river was fluctuating near 90 cfs, which is the median flow for the date based on 96 years of record keeping. The streamflow in the Yampa didn't begin to climb in earnest until Saturday, hitting 170 cfs Sunday. Flows declined slightly Monday then jumped again to 190 cfs overnight.

Another sign of early September health in the Yampa came in the form of water temperatures that ranged from a trout-friendly low of 55 degrees Sunday to a holiday weekend high of 63 degrees Monday.

The Elk and Yampa rivers received a boost from gentle rain showers Aug. 18.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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