POSTED BY ERIC SPRAGUE ON MAY 25, 2023
If you intend to spend time on the Dolores River below McPhee Reservoir, please read this entire post. We’ll be updating here twice weekly, usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and this is the best source of information on downstream releases from McPhee. At the bottom of this post are some links to flow data sources and recreational organizations including Dolores River Boating Advocates and American Whitewater. These organizations can tell you more about what to expect floating the Dolores downstream of McPhee.
McPhee is currently releasing 2,400 CFS downstream. Releases are expected to stay at 2,400 CFS through Sunday, May 28th, when releases will begin ramping down to reach 1,200 CFS on Tuesday, May 30th, for fishery sampling flows. Releases are expected to remain at 1,200 CFS until Friday, June 2nd. On June 2nd, releases are expected to ramp back up to a flow that stabilizes the reservoir elevation, possibly to 2,000 CFS or higher. The duration of raftable flows after June 2nd is unknown.
For planning purposes, raftable flows (1,200 CFS or more) are expected to continue through the first week of June and may extend longer. Be aware, this is a forecast, and the true length and volume of the spill remain unknown. Releases below McPhee can change at any time, though operators will endeavor to minimize unannounced changes. The later we get into the runoff season, the less certainty there is in release rates, and as the seasonal recession begins, releases will mimic the pattern of reservoir inflows more and more as operators will focus on keeping McPhee full through the end of the spill.
As usual, we will continue to monitor conditions and will update this page as the spill progresses.
The following is a message from Dolores River Boating Advocates:
As releases from McPhee exceed 3,000 cfs, the water becomes swift with limited eddys. It is important to be aware of your location on the river, especially if navigating through Snaggletooth or the rapids below Gateway. Camps will become inundated in some cases, and in others hard to catch or overgrown.
Potential hazards include bridges at high water levels with potentially limited clearance. Additionally, as the river rises, logs and wood will become mobilized and possibly create strainers and hazards. Further, in some areas, the channel may be braided, and it is important to be alert and aware of various options.
As flows increase or decrease, be sure to be aware of fluctuations and tie your boats up appropriately. Always bring necessary safety gear, and required equipment including a groover and firepan.
For more details on the current official forecast, go to https://www.cbrfc.noaa.gov/wsup/graph/front/espplot_dg.html?year=2023&id=MPHC2
Dolores Gage: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?09166500
McPhee Elevation & Capacity: https://dwr.state.co.us/surfacewater/data/detail_tabular.aspx?ID=MCPRESCO&MTYPE=STORAGE
Dolores below McPhee: https://dwr.state.co.us/surfacewater/data/detail_graph.aspx?ID=DOLBMCCO&MTYPE=DISCHRG
Slickrock Gage: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?09168730
Bedrock Gage: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?09171100
Bureau of Land Management: https://www.blm.gov/visit/dolores-river-srma
The BLM has a detailed boating map of the Dolores river posted on their website. Link below.
BLM Avenza Map page for the Dolores: https://www.blm.gov/documents/colorado/public-room/map/colorado-dolores-river-100k-boating-map-17×40
The following are links to the American Whitewater River Inventory pages for the lower Dolores River: