Kayakers wait their turn Wednesday as traffic piles up at Charlie’s Hole in downtown Steamboat Springs. Thanks to a good snow year, boaters are expecting a great year on the river.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Kayakers wait their turn Wednesday as traffic piles up at Charlie’s Hole in downtown Steamboat Springs. Thanks to a good snow year, boaters are expecting a great year on the river.

Kayakers expect big spring on Yampa River

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— They’re not getting greedy. Sure, a blast of hot weather could greatly speed along the snowmelt process, sending a wall of water down the Yampa River to the great delight of Steamboat Springs’ already active kayaking community.

After a winter that left a record snow base atop Mount Werner, a heat wave could make for some of the most intense river running locals have ever seen. But it’s not the massive deluge that the area’s boaters are looking for.

“We just want nice, mediocre temperatures to melt the snow nice and even,” local kayaker Dan Piano said. “We had so much snow, it’s guaranteed to be an awesome season.”

The Yampa River has slipped above 700 cubic feet per second twice in the last week, and Wednesday afternoon it was pushing above 650. That’s higher than the April 13 average for the last 100 years by more than 100 cfs, but still less than one-third of what the river runs at in late May and early June.

“All the preliminary indicators are that it’s going to be a good season,” said Pete Van De Carr, owner of Backdoor Sports in Steamboat. “We’re psyched.”

Ideally, the boaters said they’d prefer a long season rather than an all-at-once meltdown. That won’t result in huge peaks on the river — surges that threaten to flood parts of town — but will sustain boating through June and maybe into July.

The key is the weather. The hotter its gets and stays, the faster it melts and the higher the river rises.

The best, they said, is warm weather and cool nights, which should act to temper the coming wave.

“We like sunshine this time of year, but interspersed with a few days per week of crummy weather to keep that prolonged,” Friends of the Yampa board member Kent Vertrees said. “We know it’s going to be big this year, but we want it to be as slow and steady as it can. It’s great when we have boating in July.”

The river still has a long way to go, up then down, but what’s there now has already given some an idea of how the repairs to Charlie’s Hole worked out.

Last season’s melt was fast and furious even though the snowpack was relatively small. It was powerful enough to rip out the popular river feature behind the library in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Repair efforts were made in the fall, and they’re now bearing fruit.

“It’s awesome,” Piano said. “They did a great job fixing it. It’s back to the way it used to be.”

How the feature will handle higher water isn’t yet clear.

Just as they are doing in anticipation for a big season, local kayakers will just have to wait and watch.

“We hope the hole will be as good as it was in the past,” Vertrees said. “You never know when you rebuild it … that’s part of the joys of working with Mother Nature.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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