Prolonged runoff likely to impact Steamboat Springs businesses |

Prolonged runoff likely to impact Steamboat Springs businesses

Tim Kirkpatrick, co-owner of Steamboat Flyfisher, works with 8-year-old Finn Ridings during a clinic Saturday at West Lincoln Park. A prolonged runnoff likely will have an effect on numerous local business such a Steamboat Flyfisher.
Matt Stensland

— A prolonged runoff likely will have significant impacts to local businesses that thrive on waterways.

Tim Kirkpatrick, co-owner of Steamboat Flyfisher at Fifth and Yampa streets in Steamboat Springs, said high river levels will limit where his customers can fish.

“The only moving water that’s even fishable is the Yampa River below the Stagecoach Reservoir,” Kirkpatrick said.

It might be several weeks before the Yampa and Elk rivers drop to levels that allow for fishing.

Typically, Kirkpatrick’s customers can start fishing the Yampa in mid-June. The Elk usually slows down by early July, he said. With the expected prolonged runoff, Kirkpatrick said it might be early July before the Yampa is accessible.

That will have a significant impact, Kirkpatrick said, because 75 to 80 percent of the fishing outfitter’s business occurs during June, July, August and September.

“It’s a bummer because there are people who are in town who want to fish, but there isn’t anywhere to fish,” Kirkpatrick said. “From a fisherman point of view, it’s nature being nature.”

For now, he said anglers are limited to lakes and ponds such as Steamboat and Pearl lakes.

To help offset the interruption in business, Kirkpatrick said Steamboat Flyfisher would be offering more clinics like those geared toward families.

“We’re trying to get as creative as we can,” Kirkpatrick said.

High water also could affect commercial tubing operations on the Yampa.

“We don’t go if we don’t think it’s reasonable,” Backdoor Sports owner Peter Van De Carr said. In the heat of summer, his tube service serves as many as 400 people each day, but the flow of the Yampa has to drop to 700 cubic feet per second before he can start inflating tubes. Even at that level tubing is limited to adults, and they are required to wear a life jacket.

“We are accountable for the safety of our clients,” Van De Carr said.

He said typically the water will drop to safe levels by July 4 or soon after, but who knows this year. On Saturday afternoon, the Yampa was running at 3,770 cfs and is expected to rise through Tuesday.

“I’m losing sleep seeing how as a river company I can accommodate all the people who want to get on the river,” Van De Carr said.

There will likely still be tubers on the river, but they will be doing it outside commercial tubing operations. They will be buying their own tubes and will crowd put-in locations upstream of the Fifth Street Bridge, Van De Carr said.

“When the temps hit 80, 85 degrees, it’s going to be pretty enticing,” he said. “I hope people stay safe.”

High water has affected other business, as well.

Jay Ginther, with Steamboat Flood Suckers, said high water a month ago resulting from lower-elevation snowmelt kept them busy, but they are not dealing with flood damage currently. He expects that to change, though.

“In the next month once it gets to that point, we will get a lot of calls for crawl spaces and stuff like that,” he said.

Some Routt County property owners are taking steps to avoid having to call for help from companies like Flood Suckers.

During the past two months, Elk River Farm & Feed has sold 6,000 sandbags, and they had about 1,000 left, said Colby Townsend, who owns the business with his wife, Michelle. At the same time, property owners have been so busy dealing with high water that they have been putting off other projects, Townsend said.

“They’re not so concerned with doing landscaping or other projects they may be doing,” he said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email

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