Yampa River sets record for Aug. 27
August 27, 2014
If you go
Yampa River Clean-Up Day
When: 4 p.m. Friday
Where: Meet at Backdoor Sports at Ninth and Yampa streets
All recreationists and employees of businesses that benefit from tubing are encouraged to take part.
Dinner and raffle, 6 p.m.
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat's commercial river tubing outfitters are accustomed to operating on Labor Day weekend, but it's never been like this before.
After a little more than a half-inch of rain fell overnight in rain gauges around the periphery of Steamboat, the Yampa River, already inflated by frequent rains this month, jumped up to 408 cubic feet per second at the Fifth Street Bridge on Wednesday afternoon. That streamflow established a new all-time record for Aug. 27, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The old record set in 1957 was 341 cfs.
"I'm ecstatic," Peter Van De Carr, of Backdoor Sports, said Wednesday. "I would say we're operating on Labor Day weekend about six out of 10 years, but not at over 300 cfs like this.”
Commercial tubing operators here cut off rentals when the river falls below 85 cfs. Even in the drought year of 2012, the river was flowing at 130 cfs during Labor Day weekend, Van De Carr said. But that was thanks, again, to late season precipitation and supplemental dam releases funded by the Colorado Water Trust.
"The Colorado Water Trust definitely saved our bacon in 2012," Van De Carr said.
With a forecast for the rainy pattern to clear up by Friday, the river's flows are likely to recede for the weekend, but tubing still will be unusually good for the end of August. Floaters who make it as far as Charlie's Hole opposite the Bud Werner Memorial Library could be in for a cheap thrill with the added flows from Soda Creek increasing the chance that tubers could flip in the hole.
In the spirit of keeping it real, the old record of 341 cfs from 1957 might be more impressive than this year's flow; the reservoirs at Stagecoach Lake and Lake Catamount weren't in existence back in '57 and weren't releasing stored water like they are now.
The Colorado Division of Water Resources was reporting that Stagecoach was sending 144 cfs downstream to Lake Catamount and the spillway at Catamount was releasing 159 cfs.
Although this has been a summer of relatively abundant water, Van De Carr said he didn't come close to having a record year at his business. But that's due in part to the fact the Yampa was carrying so much water into July.
On July 2, the city's three commercial tubing operators were watching to see when the river would drop below 700 cfs, the accepted norm for sending clients out on rented tubes. When the river slipped below the threshold July 5, tubes were rented only to people age 18 and older for safety reasons.
"Especially early on, we turned away easily as many people as we sent out on the river because of age restrictions," Van De Carr said.
One can assume that some of those customers purchased their own tubes and set off on their own.