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2017 McPhee Release Update


Thursday May 11, 2017:  McPhee releases are down to 800 CFS, minimum boatable flows today, Thursday May 11. 

 Boatable releases (800 CFS minimum) will last through the afternoon of Sunday May 21.  For the upcoming weekend May 13 & 14 we will increase downstream releases to 1,000 CFS, starting early Friday, then back down to 800 CFS starting Sunday to reach 800 CFS releases Monday morning for next week’s CPW native fish surveys.  800 CFS releases will run all next week, Monday – Friday. 

 We will decide next week whether to bump up flows to 1,000 CFS for Saturday May 20 & Sunday May 21 and post by next Thursday May 18. 

 Based on the lower May 1st inflow forecast we are not certain about boating releases making it to Memorial Day. At this point the CBRFC 50% probability forecast would provide flows to the end of May.  The 50% forecast is a coin toss, not a guarantee.  If only the 70% probability forecast flows come in we would need to ramp down after May 21.  The difference between the 50% and 70% forecast is 30 KAF or about 15 rafting days at 1,000 CFS.  So we don’t have guaranteed inflow as we fill up the last 53,000 AF, but we do see sufficient inflows to fill McPhee and continue boating releases to May 21.  Boating releases past May 21 need more certainty on the extra 30,000 AF of inflow.  Stay tuned.

 We are monitoring the current storm, which combined with the CBRFC mid-month forecast due Tuesday May 16, may provide guidance on extending the season through the end of May.  There is measurable snow left, but inflow models are uncertain and have consistently dropped this season.  If we see sufficient evidence next week (new snow, steady or growing forecast, steady inflow and rising reservoir elevations) we will be able to announce an extended boating season to the end of May.  If we do not see the evidence to assure us that we will fill, we will start ramping flows down the afternoon of Sunday May 21.  If that happens we will fill up McPhee and then may have some unexpected extra inflow that is released down river later.

  CDOT Update:  Please note that the beam placement at Bedrock has been delayed one week starting May 16 rather than May 9.  Check the CDOT updates on the link below.

 2017 Release Planning:  This 2017 release and boating season on the lower Dolores is unique for several reasons:  high reservoir levels coming into spring of 2017, large snow-packs in mountains, and an early start to the runoff from the mountains. The conditions in 2017 have given us a rare opportunity to provide a range of flows in the river and to achieve a more natural peak flow release of 4,000 CFS for several days. With input and monitoring work from diverse stakeholders on the Dolores River Native Fish Monitoring & Recommendation Team, providing different flow levels on the river is helping to test and achieve multiple ecological/habitat objectives set forth in a collaborative plan that was originally approved by local stakeholders in 2014.  Providing a range of flows to test and meet ecological objectives also provides excellent boating conditions, including the ability for recreational users to experience the Dolores River at different flow levels in the same year. With the remaining water, we will fill the reservoir (ensuring security for water users) and – as much as possible – provide releases that meet boatable flows.  Memorial Day and June boatable flows are at risk and may or may not happen. We will know more about Memorial Day and June as we approach those dates. We understand the frustration in this uncertainty, and we are consistently working to manage flows and reservoir levels to meet all stakeholders’ needs and will continue to provide information here that allows boaters to best prepare for Dolores River boating trips.

 Boatable Releases are 800 CFS – 1,900 CFS

Optimal Releases are 1,900 – 2,100 CFS

High Releases are 2,100 CFS and greater


New Notice:  The CDOT bridge work at Bedrock construction scheduled for May 16 and may need to schedule short closures then.  Please monitor updates at the CDOT website:

 Continue to watch the releases below McPhee at and the gages linked below.


Current Notices:

BLM:  Conditions on the river, especially below Gypsum Valley, have been reported as very dry and risk of campfires getting out of control is a serious concern.  Last year’s grasses are dry and not yet replaced by green spring growth.  Additionally, spring winds are picking up.  PLEASE use extra caution when camping in the river corridor.  Keep any cooking fires small.  As always, use your fire pan and blanket.  Select an area for your fire pan that is away from dry fuels.  Monitor the wind.  Ensure your fire is cold before going to bed.  Have water and a shovel at hand at all times.  Thank you and have a safe and enjoyable trip!

SLICKROCK:  Slickrock put-in/take-out access will happen on private property downstream of Hwy 141 bridge (bridge crosses Dolores River) about 200 yards past bridge on river left.  Look for small flagging in bushes on left.  DO NOT use the old boat ramp on river right upstream of bridge.  That is private property and is not accessible this season.  Additional info about Slickrock access and other information here from Dolores River Boating Advocates:

BEDROCK BRIDGE:  The temporary equipment bridge (the low clearance one) was removed Thursday afternoon March 30. No intermittent closures are expected for a week or two. When a more definitive start date is available CDOT will provide notice.  Please see their website at  and look for signs, spotters and other guidance from the contractor, SEMA Construction, when the intermittent closures are active.


American Whitewater also provides good information about this year’s rafting opportunities and details for boaters at


DOVE CREEK PUMPHOUSE ROAD:  Please be careful of heavy traffic in and out of the Dove Creek Pumps launch site.  The road narrows and trucks with trailers cannot pass each other at certain points.  Consideration of others and patience are appreciated here.


Rico Gage:


Dolores Gage:


McPhee Elevation & Capacity:


Dolores below McPhee:


Slickrock Gage:



Bedrock Gage:


Ramping Down:  As McPhee approaches full, we attempt to start ramping down McPhee downstream boating releases when the Dolores inflow matches the total McPhee diversions and releases.  From 800 CFS down we cut back to 600 over 24 hours and then hold for 24 hours.  This pattern repeats through 400, then 200 then down to 75 CFS and we’re done.  Ultimately you will have 4 days from 800 CFS to below 400 CFS when the releases start diminishing.