Heavy snow years translate into great paddling in the white-water frothing the West's iconic rivers. But in Dinosaur National Monument officials are warning floaters to be particularly cautious on the Yampa River this spring due to high flows.
"We anticipate record spring run-offs on the rivers through Dinosaur National Monument," said Superintendent Mary Risser. "We have record snow packs in both the Green River and Yampa River basins, and recent storms through the area have added to the snow pack. Plus, cool temperatures have delayed snowmelt run-off. We urge extreme caution when boating Dinosaur's rivers or even just being around rivers and streams."
The National Park Service relies upon forecasting from the Bureau of Reclamation, which works closely with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center and the National Weather Service, to plan for the season. This year, the snowpack conditions in the Yampa Basin are poised to provide the highest river flows since 1922 when records first began to be kept, a park release said. The Yampa's highest flow of record – 33,600 cubic feet per second – occurred in 1984. Once the temperature starts to warm and the snowmelt run-off begins, the Yampa River is anticipated to peak between 29,000 and 39,000 cubic feet per second at Deerlodge.
"We want to remind people to think about safety when recreating or working near the area's rivers and streams," continued Superintendent Risser. "Take the following into consideration."
* Always wear an approved lifejacket, protective footwear, and clothing.
* Remember, the river is melted snow! It will be extremely cold. If someone gets wet, hypothermia could be a concern. Get them into dry clothing and warm them as soon as possible.
* Be aware that the water will erode the banks and cause "cut banks." Never venture too close to the edge of the river. Cut banks can easily collapse. If someone is standing on the bank when it collapses, they could get wet or, in the worst case scenario, be swept downstream in the current.
* If you do end up in the water, try to float with your feet pointed downstream and near the water's surface to avoid catching a foot in the rocks at the bottom of the river. Stand up only in shallow, calm water.
* ALWAYS SCOUT RAPIDS! Never run a rapid unless you can see a clear path through it. Watch out for new obstacles! Logs or entire trees could easily get caught up on rocks and pose a hazard to boating.
* This high water will bring lots of debris (tires, culverts, metal – anything lying within the flood plain) down the river. Any unidentifiable sealed containers with unknown substance found within Dinosaur National Monument should be left as is. Report locations and brief descriptions to rangers. If possible, take photos of the container and email to the River Office at e-mail us.
* Do not underestimate the power of the river. Rangers watched full-grown cottonwood trees hit the hole at Warm Spring at 22,000 cfs in 2008 and saw the rapid's hydraulics thrust the trees several feet in the air.
* Due to swift currents, sharp drop-offs, sandbars, and other unseen hazards, swimming is not recommended.
* Aid is difficult to obtain in case of an accident. Therefore, remote rivers through isolated wilderness should be approached with caution.
* Report any hazards on Dinosaur's rivers, such as log jams, to the River Office as soon as possible. Note the distance upstream or downstream from river miles listed on maps and guides and email rangers at this address. Include if the hazard was river right or left. Provide a brief description of the hazard and take a photo, if possible.