Art: Courtesy of Bureau Land Management
Cutline: Diversion dams on the Dolores River in Grand County are overflowing, raising concern for safety of river runners.
By Jessica Hernandez
Novice river runners and backcountry hikers may want to rethink their outdoor activities this month because of rapidly changing conditions from melting snow packs.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued river and flash flooding advisories for the Colorado, Dolores, Green, San Rafael and White rivers, advising any public land visitors to be aware of unpredictable flash flooding. The waters in these rivers, the BLM said, can rise dramatically in a short time. BLM officials said the above-average amounts of precipitation and rapid snow melts are creating some of the highest river flows and most unpredictable flash floods in decades.
“These situations aren’t normal for this time of year,” said Aaron Curtis, recreation program lead for BLM. “We want to make sure that safety is at the top of the list when people are making plans.”
Curtis also said because Utah has had a cooler spring and a larger than normal snow pack in the mountains, there is uncertainty about when snow packs will fully melt. He cautioned anyone participating in outdoor activities around snow-packed areas or rivers to know their limitations and expertise.
“Typically we’ve seen those snow melts come through already, and that’s why we want to make people aware that it’s taking longer than normal,” Curtis said.
Several popular canyoneering locations are also under flash flooding advisories, including Little Wild Horse and Chute and Crack Canyons in the San Rafael Swell, as well as Spring Creek Canyon and the Kanarra Creek Falls near Cedar City.
River runners are likely to see or encounter large debris, stronger undertows, faster currents and higher-class rapids. Theresa Butler, owner of Moab Rafting and Canoe Company, said the Colorado River is clogged with debris from trees and vegetation right now. Butler, as an experienced boater, warned novice boaters to stay off the water until after June 20.
“I would definitely say for visitors to book guided trips with professionals,” Butler said.”There’s a time and a place for beginners, but this month would not be the month for mom and dad and the two 7-year-olds.”