Low water means there’s only a 10% chance of commercial raft trips on the Blue River this summer
Performance Tours Rafting owner Kevin Foley said Tuesday, June 1, that there’s a 10% chance there will be commercially raftable flows on the Blue River north of Silverthorne later this month.
Foley said that estimate is based on recent conversations he’s had with the Denver Water board, which manages the water in Dillon Reservoir. Foley said commercial rafting operations like Performance Tours only send out guided trips if river flows are a minimum of 500 cubic feet per second. Foley said in the slight chance the river runs fast enough, it would likely start in the third week of June and only be for a few days or up to a week.
“The outlook on the Blue (River) is we’re probably not going to see raftable flows for very long, if at all,” Foley said. “One of the main reasons is because the lake level is very, very low in Dillon Reservoir. And they have quite a ways to go to fill (it), so it looks like a lot of the snowmelt and runoff is going to go toward staying in Dillon Reservoir and filling it as opposed to letting it go down the Blue River. And (the Denver Water board) didn’t think that that would change unless there was some dramatic snow storms or rain storms.”
Though it rained this past weekend, Foley said the precipitation doesn’t approach the amount the reservoir would need to change Denver Water’s formula for deciding whether to divert any water through the Dillon Dam and to the Blue River north of Silverthorne. Currently, between 54 and 56 cfs is being released below the dam.
“If we were at more of a higher lake level for this time of year, then we probably would have a season on the Blue and have raftable flows,” Foley said.
Foley said the lack of the Blue River running commercially won’t affect Performance Tours and other local guiding companies too much, if at all. Foley credited the voluntary flow management program on the Arkansas River for providing raftable flows in the Buena Vista area through Labor Day, saying it could meet leftover demand from anyone looking for a trip down the Blue.
“Most people are OK with driving an hour and 10 minutes to go rafting,” Foley said. “So even though we love having the local option of providing raft trips on the Blue, when we’re not able to, we don’t feel it as much.”
Foley said not running on the Blue also wouldn’t affect his ability to employ local guides.
“We are still going to have the same level of staffing,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to keep them all very busy on the Arkansas.”
Foley said he expects to have one more conversation with the Denver Water Board about watching inflow once the county gets an extended warm period of higher temperatures. Looking at the forecast, Foley expects that warm window to come through Thursday through Sunday.
“We should start seeing a lot of snow making its way down to streams and rivers,” Foley said. “They’ll gauge the inflow into Dillon Reservoir, and if for some reason that turns out to be a lot higher than the model currently indicates, that could change the equation. But they put an awful lot of energy into developing models and scenarios, and I’m not anticipating we are going to see that change much.”
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