Walton Creek floods willows, comes near townhomes, hotel, as temperatures rise
Steamboat Springs — Walton Creek, a tributary of the Yampa River that drains much of the Rabbit Ears Pass area, was flooding June 6 along a .45-mile stretch of the Walton Creek Trail.
Walton Creek was over its banks, but the Yampa was well below minor flood stage of 7.5 feet where it flows beneath the Fifth Street Bridge in downtown Steamboat Springs.
As of 3:15 p.m. Monday, the river stage stood at 5.75 feet, down from the 24-hour peak of 6.25 feet in the middle of the night.
Walton Creek, flowing within 15 feet of some porches at Indian Meadows Townhomes, was doing what comes naturally this time of year. The willows, which grow on either side of the creek beside Chinook Lane, announce that this is its historic floodplain.
The creek has also inundated the willows to the west along U.S. Highway 40, and just a skim of water was flowing across the entrance lane to the Fairfield Inn the night of June 4.
The Yampa was flowing at 3,310 cubic feet per second (cfs) at 3:15 p.m. Monday, well above the median for the date of 2,280 cfs.
Steamboat-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth of snowalarm.com predicted June 5 that high pressure will generate some of the warmest temperatures of the year by Wednesday and through the end of the work week, and that could accelerate snowmelt.
Based on weather forecasts that expect afternoon high temperatures to reach the low 80s June 7 and again June 9, the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) in Salt Lake City expects the Elk River to climb steeply Tuesday and Wednesday and just nudge mild flood stage Thursday and Friday.
Flows on the Elk are typically falling by this date, but the flows in the river were as high as 4,500 cfs in the middle of the night on June 4. And the CBRFC reported the Elk was more than bank-full Monday.
In 2014, when the Elk rose over minor flood stage of 7.5 feet and reached 7.65 feet, Routt County Emergency Manager Bob Struble said he saw no issues with culverts allowing runoff to pass beneath Routt County Road 42 in the lower Elk River Valley. Routt County Sheriff’s deputies and road and bridge personnel monitor road conditions when the Elk nears flood stage.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has not issued any flood warnings for Routt and Moffat counties, although there is a warning in effect on the Encampment River in extreme southern Wyoming. The Encampment, which arises in Routt County, drains the northern end of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area.
There is also a flood advisory for Gore Creek near the town of Vail.
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