Short-lived snowmelt has Gunnison River well past peak

With the Gunnison River racing along Thursday at 2,600 cubic feet per second, the 14-mile trip from Chukar Trail to the Pleasure Park takes about eight hours.

And that includes a long lunch, some off-river hiking and several stops to untangle bird nests of fishing line.

Under lesser flows, that same trip can be stretched to three days.

High flows speed you atop murky water the color of faded olive drab, a curious current unlike the emerald-green flows normally thought of when the Gunnison comes to mind.

The off-color water is coming down the Cimarron River, which flows into Crystal Reservoir and carries the murk right through the dam.

But the high flow is ending.

Water flow data from the U.S. Geological Service shows the Gunnison dropping faster than the Rockies’ playoff hopes. Flows that climbed as high as 5,400 cfs a week ago from Crystal Dam have fallen to 1,890 cfs by mid-afternoon Friday, with more reductions on the way.

“I can’t believe how fast the snow went this week,” said Mal Burk as he manned the oars of a Black Canyon Anglers’ fishing raft Thursday. “Two weeks ago the mountains around Paonia were like winter, and now there’s hardly anything left.”

Which is an indication that runoff may be short this year, which in turn promises a stonefly hatch that arrives when flows are manageable for anglers.

We can only dream.

Zebra mussel fight spreads — The fight against the spread of zebra and quagga mussels, those-dime-sized exotics that may pose whale-sized problems, continues at full pace this summer.
Colorado State Parks has kicked up it’s inspection program with an eye on making the process more efficient.

“Colorado State Parks has taken a leadership position in preventing the spread of (aquatic nuisance species) and we encourage all boaters to show up ‘clean, drained and dry’ to protect the state’s waterways and boating recreational opportunities,” said Dean Winstanley, director of Colorado State Parks.

Which means drain water from the boat, clean your boat and dry the boat, fishing gear and equipment.

Among the state’s many waters where boaters will see increased enforcement is Blue Mesa Reservoir. The reservoir recently was declared a “suspect location” for the exotic invaders based on a some tests that indicate the reservoir may already be infected.

In response, officials with Curecanti National Recreation Area announced any motorized boat launching on Blue Mesa, Morrow Point, and Crystal reservoirs will be required to undergo a prelaunch inspection as well as an out-going inspection to ensure that they are not carrying invasive mussels.

Because hand-carried, non-motorized craft are considered very low risk for mussel transport, they are not subject to inspections.

Inspection and decontamination stations are located at Steven’s Creek Campground, Elk Creek and Lake Fork and will operate from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. At other times, the launch ramps will be closed as will all the other unofficial ramp sites, including the popular one at High Bridge on Blue Mesa.

“We recognize the inconvenience to boaters and understand the need for fast turnaround,” said Curecanti Superintendent Connie Rudd. “Our staff will ensure that boats will go through the inspection process as efficiently as possible.”

More information is available at http://www.colorado.gov/parks and at http://www.nps.gov/cure.

No news on dead wolf — There still is no answer to the cause of death of that female gray wolf whose carcass was found in northwest Colorado in late March.

The wolf, part of a pack that lived north of Yellowstone National Park, covered more than 1,000 miles on her trek to Colorado.

State and federal wildlife officials said the female wolf’s carcass was found after her radio collar sent out a signal indicating she had stopped moving.

Although the wolf was found in March, the discovery wasn’t publicized until May. The cause of death wasn’t announced then because of the investigation and Friday there was nothing new.

“The inspection team is still investigating the wolf’s death and hasn’t released any information,” said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Which makes you wonder. A gunshot or a vehicle collision would have been obvious. Some other cause must be in the mix.

You can monitor updates on gray wolf management at the Web site, http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov.

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