POSTED BY ERIC SPRAGUE ON MAY 30, 2023
If you intend to spend time on the Dolores River belw 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 1,200 CFS downstream. Releases are scheduled to stay at 1,200 CFS through at least Thursday, June 1st for fishery sampling below Slickrock. Afterwards, flows are expected to remain at 1,200 CFS through the weekend and into next week as McPhee fills the last five feet or so to 6924 FT water surface elevation. When McPhee is full, releases will begin mimicking the pattern of inflow into the reservoir minus diversions (which are predicted to be about 700 CFS) in order to keep the water surface elevation stable. This means the releases will start following a less consistent, diurnal pattern that can vary in discharge by up to 1,000 CFS or more within a 24 hour period. During this phase, releases should start out at raftable levels, but the lower the river above McPhee gets, the greater the risk that releases can drop below 1,200 CFS during this time — particularly in the late afternoon when inflows are at their diurnal minimum. Cool weather or cloud cover over the McPhee drainage may also reduce flows temporarily.
The duration of raftable flows after June 2nd is unknown, but for planning purposes, raftable flows (1,200 CFS or more) are expected to continue for approximately 10 days, 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. As usual, we will continue to monitor conditions and will update this page as the spill progresses.
American Whitewater has asked us to post a link to their online rafter survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DoloresBoaters2023.
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: