I know that the paddling season for this river is May to September, but I also know that it is open year-round. I am considering doing a solo trip from the Flaming Gorge Dam to the Gates of Ladore. Would the water be high enough? Thawed enough?
Id google all the previous weather reports. Every area of the country as a day-to-day weather archive to give you an idea. Ive been further down in March and was plenty warm and no snow…like october paddling etc.
Contact ranger station there at the dam area or the forest service station.
Currently low H2o
Just spoke with a friend who lives in Moab today. She made a comment of how low everything is currently. Snow levels in the surrounding mountains are very thin this year, she said. She and her hubby are rafters, and are somewhat bummed about the current (pardon the pun) river levels around S.E. Utah. Said it is much lower than previous years.
Cold as hell in March.
The area near flaming gorge is pretty cold still that time of year. Don’t know if the river freezes near the outlet of the dam (but it stays pretty cold most of the year anyway.
remember its a dam regulated river so it may not rely on weather as much as it does politics.
think they let out a constant even flow out of the dam.
Yup–cold nights likely
Even if daytime highs are warm, which they could be, nights in the desert between late fall and early spring get COLD. Flaming Gorge is fairly far north.
This looks more encouraging …
Average monthly temps for Dutch John.
I grew up in Utah and spent some very cold days in the Uintah Basin and in Green River, Wyoming. That was a long time ago, and I think average temperatures are significantly higher now in the winter. To check temps you can google for Dutch John, that’s very near the dam, and Vernal, much further down stream.
What I’ reading indicates that there
will probably not be enough water release in March.
You can also dig through the USGS real time records for the gauge just below the Flaming Gorge Dam.
"That was a long time ago, and I think average temperatures are significantly higher now in the winter."
Hmmm. Don’t want to take us too far off topic. But, “significantly”? Like something you would actually notice on a canoe trip? Seriously?
This is something I discuss with my boyhood friends when I go back to Utah for visits. We were into back country skiing and on average the winters are much more mild lately (on average that is,e.g. 1976 was a pretty abysmal snow year). We got started on this subject looking at pictures of our early ski trips and the differences in snow cover at late spring compared with recent winters.
I live in Vermont -
I recall a winter I believe it was 1978 or 79 that we had no snow. Zero. Not one flake. My guess is if we looked at the data we would find a very slight warming trend in the last 20 years. Probably less than a half a degree on average, max. My understanding is that Europe is experiencing one of the coldest winters on record. I certainly don’t question that the climate is changing but I’d be surprised if the average snowfall and average temps over the last 30 years have changed to an extent that it would affect a canoe trip timing decision. Maybe - but I’m pretty skeptical.
there isn’t much in the way of spring run off in Northern New England either. We’ve got about 2 inches of snow pack in the woods. Normally it is waaaaay more. But, its only February, One never knows!
OK to be sceptical
I think the largest changes are noticed where the temperatures are most extreme. So the artic, cold mountain valleys where cold air collects, and intense desert regions. Uintah valley is not Vermont. What got me interested in this was a Christmas card I got from a friend in Norway a few years ago showing green grass and ice free river. When I lived in Norway in 1978 in the same town there was several feet of snow and a permanent snow field on the nearby mountain; he was joking that Norway had become San Diego. The mountain above my hometown in Utah we would climb and ski down on the 4th of July when I was in High School. There has not been enough snow to do this for at least the last ten years. An average change of a small degree has a large effect on local weather.
Snowpack poor in CO, WY, UT
In my opinion, this will probably be possible. You do not mention what type of boat you are planning to use, but there are trout fishing guides running Dories from FG Dam to the Indian Crossing takeout pretty much every day. Downstream of Indian Crossing, the biggest issue will probably be the level of water at the Red Creek rapid, which could be pretty rocky at low water levels. My recommendation would be to contact one of the outfitters in the area and find out what they think. You could also try calling someone at the Brown's Park Wildlife Refuge (http://www.fws.gov/brownspark/) -- they might know what the river conditions are like running through Browns Park (between Indian Crossing and Gates of Lodore).
As far as icing goes, there is always the potential for some shoreline icing to occur if the weather is especially cold, but the river will not be completely ice-covered between the dam and Indian Crossing because of the temperature of the water released from the dam. It will also probably be open downstream of there as well unless there has been an extremely cold period before your trip -- but I am less certain of that. Regardless, the water WILL be cold!
Regardless, you should make some calls first to get some info regarding current conditions from people that are local...
For information about releases:
Bureau of Reclamation -- http://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/cs/fgd.html
The Minmum Release
from Flaming Gorge Dam is 800 cfs. Even in a dry year. That is above the minimum identified in the float guide you posted.
I lived in Midvale for a while. Spent a lot of time in little and big cottonwood canyon. Beautiful country. I recall once driving down to Canyonlands for a few days. We stood at Dead Horse Point - if I remember correctly? Overlooking the confluence of the Colorado and the Green? Is that right? Gorgeous. I’ll never forget it. I’ve also spent some time in the Arctic but not enough to compare weather trends. Your probably correct about that area but I am wary of pronouncements about climate change being responsible for normal weather variations. Whenever to venture into the wild lands in the shoulder seasons you have to be prepared for pretty much anything.
see this brochure for info
couldn’t open the actual BLM link from the Vernal Field Office, so found it otherwhere - look at BLM Vernal Field Office for other info - note a self contained toilet is required.
the brochure is showing 7 marked CII rapids between the dam and Little Hole - I’ve only done that section once, in a ww canoe and nearly swamped- know of others who have pinned boats (Hail Mary Rapid, I think) - personally, in March, I would not do that upper Section A, but would put in at Little Hole, and take out at Swinging Bridge (just upstream from the wildlife refuge - I’ve done this section half a dozen times or so) - which would make for a CI trip with the exception of Red Creek Rapid (it has a warning sign as you approach it)- in March, especially solo, I’d likely line my boat down or just portage the whole works - if the water is low, there are a lot of rocks you can pin a boat on - river left is doable for portage, but there is no real trail. No way would I run the A section or Red Creek withou a full drysuit at that time of year - the water comes out feom the bottom of the dam ice cold, even in summer - they adjust flows for power generation, and thier little warning signs refer to sudden water level changes of up to 6 feet.
in March, you’ll miss one of the highlights of that trip, a stop at the Jarvie Ranch museum which opens Memorial Day weekend.
You can arrange for shuttle service at the Dutch John C-store - that is one long shuttle.