Steamboat Springs resident Sally Claassen eats lunch Tuesday on the bank of the Yampa River at Rich Weiss Park.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs resident Sally Claassen eats lunch Tuesday on the bank of the Yampa River at Rich Weiss Park.

Runoff levels not near record

Yampa's apparent 2008 peak well shy of highest recorded flows

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— If snowmelt in the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs has reached peak flows for 2008 - and that's no sure thing - then the river's peak would have fallen well short of a record.

The record snowfall of 489 inches on Mount Werner last winter didn't translate into record peak flows in the river. The Yampa has begun a steady slide this week, after nearly reaching 4,000 cubic feet per second on June 5. The river was running at 2,530 cfs Monday afternoon and was treading water at 2,740 cfs Tuesday afternoon.

After cool temperatures Monday, flows were rallying Tuesday afternoon behind a forecast high of 79 degrees. However, the overnight forecast called for a slight chance of rain mixed with snow and a return to the 50s today.

Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale said he conferred with other water watchers during a June 5 conference call and there was a consensus that the Yampa has at least moved beyond the threat of flooding, even if it hasn't peaked.

"My gut tells me we're past a crisis," Vale said. "From what I've seen and learned, we've peaked, but watch me be wrong."

Vale consulted with other county emergency managers, the National Weather Service and its River Prediction Service in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Prediction Service uses mathematical formulas to translate known data about snowpack into a probability that individual rivers have peaked.

The only thing holding the experts back from certifying peak flows, Vale said, is the knowledge that there still are some deep pockets of snow moisture scattered around the Park Range and Elkhead Mountains.

A combination of cold, dry snowfall all winter and a protracted cool spring may have defused spring runoff this year, Vale agreed.

"This year it was cool, cool, cool," Vale said. "Mother Nature let it run down," gradually.

The all-time highest peak on the Yampa in Steamboat was recorded at 6,820 cfs on June 14, 1921. The record low peak was at 1,080 cfs on May 15, 1977. That was a pre-snowmaking ski season at the Steamboat Ski Area when the trails closed temporarily right after Christmas and opened in time for excellent spring skiing.

As recently as June 1, 2003, the Yampa peaked at 5,190 cfs. The river hit 5,310 cfs on Jun 3, 1997.

Hydrologists call the graph that describes the curve tracing the annual rise and fall of streamflows the hydrograph. The peak of runoff on May 30, 2002 - the year of Routt County's worst drought in 90 years and the Hinman Fire - was just 1,290 cfs.

Comments

7GENERATIONNATIVE 6 years, 5 months ago

MOST PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN HERE A WHILE (CHUCK VALE) ARE FORGETTING WHAT SPRING TIME IS REALLY LIKE IN THE YAMPA VALLEY. HIGH WATER (AT LEAST ON THE ELK RIVER) HAS NOT EVEN HIT YET. ON AVERAGE, HIGH WATER IS ON AROUND THE 14TH OF JUNE -- AND HIGHEST WATER ON THE ELK RIVER IS THE DAY AFTER THE SNOW IS GONE OFF OF SAND MOUNTIAN -- AND IF YOU HAVE LOOKED AT SAND MOUNTAIN LATELY, WE HAVE A WHILE. THIS INFOMATION HAS BEEN GATHERED FROM THE PAST 100 YEARS OF LIVING IN THE VALLEY. NOT SOME GUY THAT LIVES IN DENVER TELLING US THAT HIGH WATER WAS A FEW WEEKS AGO. IF YOU THINK IT WAS BAD A FEW WEEKS AGO....JUST WAIT!

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dave reynolds 6 years, 5 months ago

he did a study..lol..i agree 7native...baton down the hatches..sand mtn has snow ski area has snow..hold on tight

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SilverSpoon 6 years, 5 months ago

The dirt patches on the face of storm are close to connecting. The peak flow has already happened. All the snow in the low country has been gone for a long time, the snow in the high country is not enough to flood anything. Just my opinion for what it is worth.

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weststmbtres 6 years, 5 months ago

7GEN, your comment is about the Elk river. The article is about the Yampa. I would agree that we are over the hump on the Yampa. This spring was different. The valley snow was gone before the high snow started to melt. Its been a longer slower runoff with cooler weather. If there was a week of 90 degree temperatures forecast in the next two weeks (which there is not) it might bring up the levels considerably, but still not to the levels they are talking about from '03 and '97.

P.S. do you realize you are yelling

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weststmbtres 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm assuming seven 18 year old brides in a row 424. A couple wouldn't surprise me but seven in a row would.

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dogd 6 years, 5 months ago

7gen: My fam has been here since '94, and my grandpa always said that June 6 was the oldtimer's high water average for the Yampa.

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424now 6 years, 5 months ago

Hey when we get record snowfall, we get record runoff. Go figure!

Luvin mud season!

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elk2 6 years, 5 months ago

How long is 7 generations? Isn't that 175 years or something like that?

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weststmbtres 6 years, 5 months ago

good point elk. Lets do some math. This is a highly unlikely scenario stretching the numbers to the max.

If your 8th generation grandmother arrived pregnant and had a baby in the valley shortly thereafter that baby would be the 1st generation native. If each subsequent daughter or son got pregnant or impregnated someone on or about their 18th birthday (since teens don't have sex) and had a baby in exactly 9 months then that adds 112.5 years to the total. That gets us to your birth date. Your comments sound like those of someone who hads been around and seen it all, so I'm guessing you are at least 25 :o). That puts us at 138 years from the time your grandmother or grandather was born in the Yampa valley in 1870. Since the first permanant settler James Crawford isn't said to have arrived until 1875 that sounds a little hard to believe.

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dogd 6 years, 5 months ago

Elk: I was wondering about that a little bit too. I'm fourth generation, and my family's arrival I mentioned as '94 was 1894.

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424now 6 years, 5 months ago

You are assuming an 18 year old bride in the early 1900's

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Brant McLaughlin 6 years, 5 months ago

I would agree, that does seem like a lot of generations shoved into a very short time frame. However, everyone needs to calm down and think about it for a minute before jumping all over 7GEN. He does say "native". which in my mind means Colorado not just Steamboat. That gives him a little more time to work with.

I agree 7 Generations in Colorado seems a bit tight unless you can claim Ute heritage but it could be done if he is counting the pioneer family that first moved here (as opposed to being born here) as the 1st generation and he's not talking about his family being in Steamboat or Routt County from the start.

Those numbers don't work for my family but they might for 7GEN's.

I just looked at my own family tree that I put together a few years ago with my Aunt. My great great grandfather (4th generation back) Jacob Warwick McLaughlin was born in 1910 and died in 1840 in Virginia (now West Virginia) and his son, my great grandfather fought in the Civil War. When I get back 7 generations I'm into my family members who were pioneers in Virginia and the Northwest Territory (at that point Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan). Several of these folks were born in Maryland and Virginia in the 1740's 50's and 60's

By the way, in keeping with the subject of the article which is what brought me here to start with, I have also spent a lot of time around rivers and I agree. I don't think the Yampa river is going to go drastically higher and break any records this year.

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Brant McLaughlin 6 years, 5 months ago

correction Jacob Warwick McLaughlin was born in 1810.

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bloggyblog 6 years, 5 months ago

big whoop. bloggy is 8'th generation squared. thats right blogs family moved here 1100 years ago. blog's great,great,great,great,great grandmother said the runoff of 1467 was the record flow of all time! oh, and on the subject, there is a pretty solid snowpack still in the high country but barring any major late Spring dumps we should be o.k. as far as flooding goes.

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sbsmon 6 years, 5 months ago

  1. using weststmbtres's math even if 6 generations in a row were all 15 years old when they had babies and 7gen is only 25 years old then that still adds up to 119.5 years. that makes the first generation born in 1888. still a very hard scenario to swallow.

and what does brants family in virginia 300 years ago have to do with any of this.

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dogd 6 years, 5 months ago

There's a busy ex-Bronco running back, Travis Henry, who started 10 generations of "families" in just a busy 10-12 year period.

But I guess they were all first generations.

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Brant McLaughlin 6 years, 5 months ago

Loosen up everyone. The point I was trying to make was that we are all 7th generation something and it's a terrible measuring tool because a generation could be 20 years or 60.

dogd is 4th generation and 7gen claims he is 7th. Both evidently have family that have been here for roughly the same time frame. Claiming 4 or 7 generations doesn't tell us who got here first. Their grandparents may have both come over on the same wagon train for all we know.

7 generations of my own family goes back to pioneer days east of the Mississippi in the 1700's. All I'm saying is you can't compare two different families generations and get anything meaningful out of it if you are trying to establish a time frame.

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sbsmon 6 years, 5 months ago

hey 7gen, you were saying "just wait". wait for what? three 80 degree days and it looks like the elk is still only at 3500cfs at milner. sure it's going to go up some, but it peaked at nearly twice that a few weeks ago. I think you're crazy if you think it's going to happen all over again.

dogd, that's an interesting tidbit about travis henry. I did not know that. however if it's true, and if by families you mean children by a different mother, then I'd say that travis has 10 1st generation half brothers and sisters, not 10 generations of children.

brant, sorry I didn't pick up on the point you were making. That makes sense. 7 generations is going to be a unique number of years for each person. so why are these guys using it as the standard by which they are measuring their family against another?

by the way brant, I'm looking at your numbers. either you are 90 years old or are you pulling my leg like 7gen? I also find it hard to believe so few generations have passed in your family in 300 years.

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Brant McLaughlin 6 years, 5 months ago

Sbsmon, I'm 36. I live with my wife and our son in Steamboat II and I'm not pulling your leg. Since you seem to need an explanation here it is. The paternal branch from which the McLaughlin name comes goes like this.

I was born in 1972 when my dad was 36 my father was born in 1936 when his dad was 43 my grandfather was born in 1893 when his dad was 50 my great grandfather was born in 1843 when his dad was 33 my great great grandfather was born in 1810.

My great great grandfathers name was Jacob Warwick McLaughlin and you can find him on rootsweb. I made a typo in my post last week. He actually died in 1850 at the age of 40 and we do not know who his father was. We just know he died and is buried somewhere in Randolph County, VA, now WV.

I could look at 10 different branches of my family tree and see 7th generation relatives born in the 1700's, but I don't have the time or space time to spell them all out here just because you guys want me to prove it.

All I was saying was one person claiming 7 generations in a certain time frame is exactly the same as someone else claiming 3 generations. I gave my own family history as an example of the other end of the spectrum to make the point. That's all.

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7GENERATIONNATIVE 6 years, 5 months ago

By the way -- My family has been here is 1889 -- we were here with the crawfords -- and i am related to the first white baby born in routt county (the rest where utes).....crawfords where not the only ones here and by far not the first --- many trappers where here way before then. and back then, people graduated school after 8th grade and very few went to high school..........so yeah there where young parents.

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sbsmon 6 years, 5 months ago

still waiting 7gen. doesn't look like your flood prediction is going to come true.

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