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Utah Travel Headlines

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Runoff Brings Higher Stream Flows, Whitewater Adventure

Spring runoff started in earnest on Monday, when air temperatures climbed into the low 80s F in many areas. Today a rainstorm brought lower temperatures, and that will slow runoff a bit, but the reprieve will be brief because temperatures will warm again later this week.

Stream flows are expected to peak around May 27. People involved in recreational activities in Utah need to pay attention to the flows because they pose a danger. But high flows also bring opportunity for whitewater rafting adventure – many people like to ride the crest of the runoff on fabled river sections on the Colorado, Green, Yampa and Delores.

High water means river trips can be more intense in places like Westwater, Cataract and Grand canyons on the Colorado River. As runoff ends, the river water warms and rafting conditions become more pleasant, albeit not quite as exciting. The rivers then settle into a summer pattern and offer great recreational opportunities into early fall.

In northern Utah, streams are running high and fast, and the water is very cold. If a person inadvertently slips into the torrent, he or she may be in real danger. Parents are encouraged to watch kids closely while near waterways, and not allow kids to play on stream banks.

Stream fishing is popular in Utah and fishermen need to use caution. In addition to high water, runoff brings mud into streams and that can reduce fishing opportunities. However, this year runoff is not expected to be particularly bad and most streams will probably remain fishable right through the period.

Our famous blue-ribbon fly fishing stream sections are protected from major runoff because they are located below dams, which capture and store the high water. The Green River below Flaming Gorge and the Provo River below Jordanelle and Deer Creek reservoirs will probably offer very good fishing through the spring and early summer.

The Standard Examiner has this article about runoff. Below are excerpts.

A spike in temperatures means Utah's mountain-fed rivers and streams are quickly swelling -- some tripling in volume in a matter of days -- and raising the risk for those who go near them.

Winter accumulations of snow began melting rapidly Monday, said National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney...

He's warning parents to keep youngsters away from fast-moving streams. Each year, he said, children fall into and drown in Utah's frigid, mountain rivers.

The danger is not just that the water is moving fast through rocky areas but also that river temperatures can be in the mid-30s, and hypothermia can set in within minutes, Hutson said.

Dangerous conditions are expected to remain until early June.

The Weber River near Oakley -- like similar rivers in the Wasatch range -- is expected to triple its water between now and the end of the month, McInerney said.

Despite that, flooding isn't expected this spring.

That's partly because Northern Utah got less snow than average over the winter. Storm systems in March and April helped, McInerney said, but the northern mountains are still lagging behind the 30-year average.

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