Colorado may have its best boating season in over a decade thanks to this winter’s large snowfall |

Colorado may have its best boating season in over a decade thanks to this winter’s large snowfall

But if the deep snow melts too fast, the rafting season that might have been could end in a rush of dangerous water and debris.

Dean Krakel
The Colorado Sun
Boaters in Dolores River Canyon, April 24, 2023, near Bedrock, Colorado.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

Colorado’s bountiful snowpack is beginning to melt, and streams and rivers are on the rise. If current predictions for the runoff stay on track, this could be the longest stretch of boatable flows on Colorado’s rivers in over a decade, including a rare opportunity to float the spectacular 240-mile-long Dolores River. 

“We haven’t seen this kind of season since 2011,” said Erin Walter, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service based in Grand Junction. “All the basins are doing well.” 

As of Thursday, the Yampa Basin’s snowpack is 141% of average, the Gunnison 171%, the Animas, San Miguel, San Juan and Dolores are collectively at 188%. The Dolores Basin has the highest snowpack in the state, 254% of normal. The lowest snowpack numbers are the South Platte Basin at 96% and the Arkansas Basin at 78%. 

“This is definitely one for the record books,” said Kestrel Kunz of the American Whitewater Association. “As a boater I’m excited. This healthy snowpack is something that everyone can be excited about, regardless of whether you’re a river runner, rancher or restaurant owner.” 

But how quickly all that high-elevation snow flows into the rivers is the big question.

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