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Snowpack in the Colorado River Basin

April 14, 2011 – We’ve had some questions lately about how the snowpack in the Colorado River Basin will affect the rafting season this year. To help understand the significance of the current Colorado River Basin Snowpack and how it will affect our 2011 season river trips, Brian Merrill, CEO of Western River issued the following email to the staff to pass along to guests with questions:

“The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon is regulated by Glen Canyon Dam so it is not immediately effected by the snowpack.
The potentially higher water presents an opportunity to see the Colorado River in Utah and the Green River in their most majestic state which is an opportunity not many get.  Below are some key points.

1-The snow pack in the Colorado River Basin is at 119% of normal right now. Significant, but not crazy high
2-We will be spending extra time in our spring training and guide orientation to train high water protocols.

3-Cataract Canyon through Canyonlands National Park: Grand Canyon sized rapids, but we use the J-rigs which are designed for big water.
4-Desolation (Green River): Solid Class III at higher levels.  A lot of fun rapids that are bigger than normal, but not too scary.
5-Moab Daily: A couple of other rapids really come out in high water.  It  becomes a good class III run
6-Westwater Canyon: Rapids flush out in high water. The most significant level comes when the water is on the way up (10,000 – 20,000 cfs.) and then of course on the way back down.

There is no way to accurately predict how high the Colorado River and Green River will get because there are so many factors at play.  The current predictions are that we will have a cold and wet spring similar to last year.  This means the snow will stay in the mountains longer and our peak may come a week or two later.  Last year, things warmed up gradually and the water lasted a lot longer than expected but without a really sharp peak.  Hopefully, that will happen again this year.  The normal pattern is for the water to peak quickly around the end of May or first week of june.  Then it tapers off fairly quickly.  This is because the air temperature usually rises quickly and the snow melts in a big rush.

Western River will take all of the necessary precautions and has excellent equipment and training to help handle whatever comes our way.  We will certainly be taking it seriously, but it also presents a great opportunity for fun.”
Cataract Canyon rapids on a J-Rig

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