Heat pushes river higher

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The blast of 88-degree weather that surprised cold-blooded Yampa Valley residents during the weekend caused flows in the Yampa River to shoot upward.

That means it's too soon to think about tubing the Yampa.

"That scares me," Peter Van de Carr said. "Don't go without a lifejacket."

Van de Carr owns Back Door Sports on Yampa Street, where a big pile of yellow tubes sat stacked about 30 feet from the river Thursday. But he won't turn tubing customers loose on the river until it drops considerably. And it's likely that at first, only adults will be offered float trips.

Private tubers should consider using helmets and wet suits in addition to lifejackets, Van de Carr advised.

Under the influence of cold weather systems that brought snow to surrounding mountain peaks each of the past two weekends, the river had dropped several hundred cubic feet per second below its historic average of 2,000 cfs on June 13. The river typically begins to drop by the third week of June, but on Friday, the river at the Fifth Street Bridge in downtown Steamboat had surged past the norm of 1,700 cfs to nearly 2,200 cfs. By Saturday night, the river was flirting with 2,300 cfs.

"There's a party in my head right now," Van de Carr said. "It's been so long since we had average streamflows."

Last year at this time, Steamboat's commercial tubing fleet already had launched for the summer. But Van de Carr knows that higher streamflows in June are healthier for the river as well as for his business.

Tubers got on the water June 17 last year with the river flowing at 520 cfs. By July 6, the streamflow was just 180 cfs, and a week later, the river had dropped to 89 cfs. Steamboat's tubing companies took themselves off the river on Aug. 9, 2004, with the river flowing at just 50 cfs.

The river was flowing at more than 1,400 cfs on Monday.

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