Colorado River users watching BLM changes
Among the issues local river users are following is the Bureau of Land Management’s menu of proposals regarding changes in visitor use of the Ruby-Horsethief section of the Colorado River.
This much-used section of river, which begins at the Loma boat launch, floats through the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, and ends at the Westwater takeout near Cisco, Utah, is among the last non-permitted sections of a major river anywhere in the West.
Three of the BLM’s four possible alternatives to the present system include a variety of fees and permits and limits on overnight capacity in the recreation area.
It’s not like it’s unexpected, considering the heavy use the river and the limited campsites receive.
Fires from unattended campsites were fairly common, and many islands and rest spots were burned bare until the BLM started cracking down on illegal fires.
Now, most experienced boaters treat the area just as they would one of the permitted rivers, such as the Green or the Colorado through the Grand Canyon.
But there’s this river right out Grand Junction’s back door, and it lures everyone from the experienced big-water rafters to the rubber-ducky crowd, and the visitor numbers are growing each year.
There also is the possibility of limiting to two the number of dogs accompanying each trip, and having each dog count against the total passenger load.
A letter from Katie Stevens, manager of the McInnis Canyons NCA, explains that the changes are sought to reduce user conflict and physical effects from the high recreational use.
You can read more about the proposals at the Grand Junction BLM’s Ruby-Horsethief website, http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/nca/mcnca/Ruby_Horsethief.html.
The comment period ends July 1.
Runoff on the way down: This year’s runoff came fast and furious and signs indicate the peak has passed.
Readings from stream gauges across the state show water flows are starting to decline in most areas, probably the result of the hot weather, high winds and generally dry conditions over the past month.
Last weekend’s brief storm kicked up flows for a while but by now those effects are disappearing.
The Gunnison River near Gunnison, which jumped 1,000 cubic feet per second in one day earlier this month, dropped from 3,500 cfs on June 9 to 1,436 cfs Wednesday, a drop that most anglers are pleased to see.
“It’s been dropping fast, although it kicked up a bit this morning,” said Chris Eaton of Dragonfly Anglers in Crested Butte earlier this week. “We’re still fishing the Taylor (River below Taylor Park Dam) until the Gunny clears a bit more.”
The dam-controlled flows on the Taylor have dropped to 518 cfs as runoff slows into the reservoir.
Many reservoirs are seeing a slowdown in runoff inflows, and recently the Bureau of Land Management announced a series of cutbacks in releases from Ruedi Reservoir.
According to BLM spokesperson Kara Lamb, flows from Ruedi into the Fryingpan River will be down to 375 cfs by Wednesday night, with more changes likely.
Add the 30 or so cfs coming from Rocky Fork Creek just below the dam and the ‘Pan should be around 406 cfs, which is both wadeable and fishable.
No word yet on the Green Drake hatch; that will have to wait for the water to drop a bit more.
One consideration while fishing during high water: Even though the runoff is showing signs of slowing, it won’t take much added water to make swollen rivers and streams revert to dangerous levels.
The Division of Wildlife is warning anglers, particularly those headed to northern Colorado, to be aware of fast-moving, high-intense storms accompanying the occasional cold fronts sweeping across the state.
In particular, the Big Thompson River in Estes Park and the Poudre River are both running dangerously high.
Anywhere you find yourself in a narrow canyon, such as the Gunnison, the upper Roaring Fork or the Dolores, to name a few, be aware of the weather around you.
Just like anywhere in the desert, heavy rains miles away can result in flash floods gnawing at your feet.