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2017 McPhee Release Update


Monday May 22, 2017:  McPhee releases are ramping down to 600 CFS by midnight Tuesday in 6+ hours and then hold for 24 hours through Tuesday to midnight start of Wednesday when they start the next step down to 400 CFS over 24 hours.  Then 24 hours at 400 CFS, then down to 200 CFS and hold for 24 hours then down to 75 CFS around Sunday May 28 (Corrected from last post).

Lake elevation has not started up yet, but should by tomorrow.  It should take at least one week until we see how early June is setting up with temperatures and the rising lake elevation.  Combined with the June 1st forecast (out around June 2 or 5) this should drive any final decisions for 2017 downstream releases.

 Recent Drivers for the 2017 Downstream Releases:  Our forecasts have steadily dropped with the drier than normal spring weather.  So, as we enter the second half of May, McPhee lacks 8 feet (34,000 AF) and so it is time to fill.  The chance still exists (coin toss), based on some high pressure systems and runoff timing, that early hot June weather could bring down the remaining snow pack very quickly.  Those conditions could force running a mini “fill & spill” for 4 – 6 days.  We’re watching for those conditions, but should not approach a full reservoir for several weeks that could trigger some additional excess water.  Website updates will be more sporadic, but check back around June 2 if warm weather returns.

As usual early release plans were changed to meet real time weather and runoff conditions.  Given the changing actual conditions we were able to:

  • Advertise ahead & release 4,000 CFS for 72 hours of channel maintenance
  • Provide notice for 7 days of optimal flow releases (1,900 – 2,100 CFS)
  • Sustain boatable releases for 52 days
  • Get CPW downstream to conduct linear native fish monitoring for the first time in 6 years, finishing today

Now the collaborative partners will start evaluating all the data collected down river for future “year in review” public meetings.  The multi-year collaborative efforts on the lower Dolores have led to these release rates and associated monitoring before, during and after the high flow events.  We expect this analysis to confirm beneficial effects for the boating experience and ecological improvements and guide future refinements.   More detail on the 2017 conditions and release schedules is provided 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.  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.

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

 Current Notices:

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: