Yampa River flows drop below 10th percentile for early October

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By the numbers

Yampa River flow Tuesday

Noon: 60 cfs

Average for this date: 134 cfs

Highest for this date: 465 cfs in 1962

Lowest for this date: 43 cfs in 1935

Source: Streamflow reported in cubic feet per second at the Fifth Street Bridge as provided by the U.S. Geological Survey

— What the Yampa River could use now is a little snow to gradually melt into its tributaries.

The Yampa has been largely off the radar since the end of the tubing and irrigation season, but its flow through Steamboat Springs on Tuesday ranks in the bottom 10 percent since streamflows have been monitored. The river was flowing at 64 cubic feet per second Tuesday beneath the Fifth Street Bridge. That compares to the median flow for this date of 117 cfs and the all-time recorded low of 43 cfs on Oct. 9, 1935.

Relief could come Friday night into Saturday, when the National Weather Service is predicting a 50 percent chance of showers and an overnight low of 35 degrees.

The Yampa and the Elk rivers are among more than 20 rivers throughout Colorado currently flowing in the 10 percent range of their historical averages, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

One thing that makes Tuesday’s subpar streamflow significant is that early October is a time when historically, the level of the river is recovering from the late summer doldrums thanks to a modest amount of snow melting into the Yampa’s tributaries.

The Yampa was flowing on par Oct. 4 at 70 cfs, but the historic graph indicates Oct. 5 is the date when the river flow should begin to pick up to levels above 100 cfs.

Jay Gallagher, of the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, said Tuesday that he didn’t have data at his fingertips to confirm the flows in Granite Creek and the Middle Fork of Fish Creek, which feed Fish Creek Reservoir and historically have risen at this time of year. The reservoir, Steamboat’s primary source of domestic water, is about 54 percent full and will drop into the 40 percent range during winter. The dam is releasing about 7 cfs into Fish Creek, and that will continue for about another week before it is dropped to 4 cfs, he said.

The Elk River was flowing at 68 cfs Tuesday at its confluence with the Yampa west of Steamboat. The Yampa was flowing at 36 cfs above Stagecoach Reservoir. Further downstream, above Lake Catamount, the river was flowing at 29 cfs.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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