Jack on the rocks

The Colorado River upstream of Dotsero continues to rise and inundate low-lying fields. The river guage at Kremmling, approximately 30 miles upstream, measured flows Tuesday at nearly 8,000 cubic feet per second.



The lure of seeing Crsytal Dam spill atracted numerous spectators over the weekend. At the time of the photograph, the dam was releasing about 6,300 cubic feet per second. The spillway is capable of releasing about 42,000 cfs.



DOTSERO – Like most fishing guides, Jack Bombardier has an array of photos on his website showing clients catching fish.

This month, however, it’s not fish Bombardier wants to catch.

He’s hoping to snag the fishing dock that Bombardier last saw sitting a few yards in front of his house a few miles upstream of Dotsero.

That was before the runoff-charged waters of the Colorado River swept over the dock, on which Bombardier earlier piled a load of large rocks to hold it in place.

Did it work?

“I think it’s still there,” Bombardier said Monday in a telephone conversation. “We had about a foot of water and I had to go out there to clear some brush and rocks from our fence and I wandered out where it should be and I didn’t sink in, so it should still be there.”

Bombardier, owner and head guide for Confluence Casting, LLC (http://www.confluencecasting.com), and his wife, Terena, live about as close to the Colorado River as possible, which is good for hauling his fishing boats into the water, but not so good when runoff creeps up his foundation.

Especially this runoff, which some river watchers have predicted to be one of the highest in a decade.

“The waves up here are huge,” said Bombardier, who has lived in this riverside house since 1986.

“No one on the Colorado lives as close to the river as I do. I was a lot more scared three years ago.”

That was the spring of 2011, and as the water edged up the sides of his house, Bombardier made a mark where the river peaked.

“On June 11, 2011, I made a mark where it reached because I thought it would be fun to show people how high it can get,” he said with a laugh. “Crazy, I know, but it’s a nice reference to know where we are in relation to then. This year, the highest we’ve come is 4 inches from that mark.”

There still is a lot of runoff yet to come. The high country still holds snow measured in feet and Arapahoe Basin ski resort announced it will re-open this weekend.

“There’s a ton of snow at 10,000 feet,” Bombardier said. “I skied at A-Basin last Monday and it was like St. Pat’s Day, not Memorial Day.”

The Colorado River on Tuesday was flowing at close to 8,000 cubic feet per second near Kremmling and about 16,000 cfs below Dotsero, with Bombardier’s home close to the middle of that stretch.

The water level has raised concerns in river managers.

The Bureau of Reclamation announced late Tuesday it was increasing releases from the Aspinall dams on the Gunnison River between 1,200 to 1,400 cfs, bringing flows through the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge to more than 7,000 cfs.

Flows in the Gunnison River at Delta might reach 12,000 cfs by today.

More releases will be scheduled after the Bureau evaluates Tuesday’s releases and resulting river flow levels.

“For now, releases from Crystal will remain around 6,800 cfs with flows in the Black Canyon around 6,000-6,500 cfs,” according to an agency release Monday.

Even with all that snow yet to melt, Bombardier expressed confidence his house won’t be threatened.

“Three years ago, I was staying awake at night but my house didn’t float away, so I think we’re in good shape,” he said, and a listener could almost hear the fingers being crossed. “I think we may have peaked.”

He looked out at the boisterous river going by, a few yards from his house.

“I think we’re in good shape,” he said with a laugh.


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