Sunny days and roaring rivers: Steamboat’s weekend forecast |

Sunny days and roaring rivers: Steamboat’s weekend forecast

Despite cooler weather and some snowfall earlier this week, spring runoff is well underway with the Yampa River being fueled by snowmelt from the slopes of Mount Werner. Warmer weekend weather should crank up river flows after they dipped slightly during the week.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After a week of heavy rain and even some snow, sunny days and warmer temperatures are in the forecast for the Yampa Valley. 

A balmier weekend is expected to raise river levels as snow continues to melt in the high country. Faster flows and bigger rapids bring joy to some river enthusiasts, but conditions can also pose risks for the unprepared. 

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has sun in the forecast all weekend, with temperatures rising higher each day. 

Friday should see a high of 57 degrees, dipping to a low 31 degrees in the evening. The high rises to 60 degrees for Saturday and 66 degrees for Sunday, with lows around 35 degrees. 

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Some light, afternoon showers could arrive Saturday and Sunday, but Mike Weissbluth, a local meteorologist who runs, does not expect those to bring much moisture.

That is quite a different story from this week after a mix of heavy rains and snow flurries hit Steamboat.

“This last storm was quite impressive,” Weissbluth said.

By the end of it, the high country had received about 2 inches of liquid water and 1.5 inches of moisture had fallen in the valley, he said.

The flow of the Yampa River peaked at just below 1,900 cubic feet per second on Sunday, following a major thunderstorm Friday night. Flows have steadily waned over the week. The United States Geological Survey clocked the Yampa at 1,200 cfs Thursday.

Peter Van De Carr, owner of Backcountry Sports and an avid river recreationist, expects the river to rise again over the weekend as the heat melts snow in the mountains. 

That means colder water, as well as potential hazards for boaters. 

River temperatures are just above 40 degrees in town, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which is chilly enough to endanger people who are not wearing the proper equipment.

“If you fall in the river, you have about 30 seconds to get out, or you’re going to be hypothermic,” Van De Carr said of people in plainclothes.

But his biggest concern, especially for rafters, is the danger presented by man-made obstacles.

The bridges crossing over the Yampa can become impassable when the river rises above 2,700 cfs, which is when he stops running commercial raft trips. In Steamboat, the river could hit such levels within the next two weeks. Van De Carr said the flows peak anywhere from mid-May to June, reaching about 3,000 cfs last year.

Some spring flooding has already caused closures along parts of the Yampa River Core Trail. As of this week, the city had closed three sections of the trail. Those include the U.S. Highway 40 underpass at Walton Creek, the railroad underpass between Fetcher Park and Rotary Park as well as the 13th Street underpass at Bud Werner Memorial Library. 

“Please obey all closures, follow the detour routes and do not try to cross flooded trails,” Mike Lane, the city’s public information officer, advised in a news release. 

Looking to the week ahead, Weissbluth expects rains to return by Tuesday and bring cool weather with occasional showers until the weekend.

“I know the residents around town aren’t looking forward to it, but the water managers will be happy,” he said. 

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