Steamboat’s river levels expected to drop this weekend |

Steamboat’s river levels expected to drop this weekend

Forecasters say tubing could be possible by middle of next week

Zach Fridell

Bill Kahle, of Ohio, stands on the 13th Street bridge overlooking the Yampa River on Tuesday afternoon. Cooler temperatures are expected to cause water levels to decrease this weekend.

— The water levels in the Yampa and Elk rivers are expected to remain high until the weekend and then drop quickly as cooler weather settles into the valley. Forecasters said the flow could drop to tubing levels by the middle of next week.

A flood advisory from the National Weather Service will remain in effect on the Elk River until late tonight, and the Elk continued to flow at 7.2 feet Wednesday morning, above the flood stage of 7 feet.

Weather service hydrologist Bryon Lawrence said the weather this weekend will make the water levels of both rivers drop quickly because less snow will be melting during the day.

"We really start to see some cooler air come in tomorrow and through the weekend, and the river is going to drop off quickly," he said Wednesday.

Lawrence said the Elk River is expected to drop to 6.8 feet by Friday, to 6 feet by Saturday and to 5.5 feet by Sunday, as measured at the bridge at Routt County Road 42.

The same drop is expected on the Yampa River after it crested at 6.7 feet Monday night. Lawrence said the Yampa River was measured at 6.4 feet Tuesday night at the Fifth Street Bridge.

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The level was expected to drop to 6 feet Wednesday evening, to 5.8 feet by Friday night and to 5.5 feet Sunday night.

"One thing we need to watch for this weekend is precipitation," Lawrence said.

A quarter- or half-inch of rain is expected in the region during the weekend, but that will not likely increase the river flows, he said.

"I think by early next week we could be down at tubing level," he said. "It's going to be flowing a little too fast even this weekend."

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall said none of the river is closed, but he urged caution because of the fast flow. The sheriff has the authority to close the river in cases of emergency, but Wall said he does not plan to issue any closures.

Paul Draper, county Road and Bridge Department supervisor, said there were a few road issues in the county because of the weather but nothing significant.

He said there was some water on C.R. 44 near Saddle Mountain Ranch on Tuesday, but crews put up small lines of earth to divert the water. There was also some water on C.R. 54, he said.

A slide on C.R. 82 closed the road near the Wyoming border, blocking of some access to grazing lands, Draper said.

Draper said he has not found any extra debris in the water this year because of beetle-kill, but there is more debris than usual because the waters are the highest they have been in several years.

"It's been a number of years since we've had water at this level," he said. "Debris from the past few years hasn't moved, so it's picking it up now."

Yampa River in Craig

The Yampa in Craig is running higher and faster than average, but the National Weather Service expects the river to peak this week and continually decrease thereafter.

Lawrence said the 9.9-foot crest height measured Wed­nesday morning is likely the highest the Craig area will see. It will be the third-highest peak crest in 25 years and the average peak crest is 7.8 feet.

"We expect flows to remain quite high on the Yampa River for the next few days," Lawrence said.

At a measurement station where the Yampa crosses Colorado Highway 13, the river hit 11,575 cubic feet per second, which Lawrence said is likely the peak discharge for the year. The average peak flow for the past 25 years is 8,400.

— To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

or e-mail

Additional information from Craig Daily Press reporter Nikki Inglis.

Additional information from Craig Daily Press reporter Nikki Inglis.

— To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail