The Spring of 2010 is one for the record books. Water in the snow on Blue Mountain contained 18.5” of water on April 19. The average water content over the last several decades at this time of year has been 10 inches.
These figures come from the Snotel measuring station at Camp Jackson at about 9,500 feet elevation. On protected north slopes, 2,000 feet higher on the mountain, snow depth and water content is anyone’s guess. Snowmobilers reported enormous drifts and snow depths.
The Cortez Journal reports that the snow totals in southwest Colorado have been unusual for a number of reasons. The snowpack figures in lower elevations are 152 percent of normal, while the upper elevation figures are just 75 percent of normal. As a result, predictions are for less than normal runoff from the Colorado mountains.
Usually, by the third week in April, spring melt is well along, with most south slopes already bare. This year, there is not a single spot from the Monticello view which is barren and indeed the melt on the mountain has barely begun.
Runoff from low-lying areas around the mountain is pouring huge volumes of water into Loyd’s Lake. Between South Creek and two other lowland tributaries, enough water is coming into Loyd’s Lake that the reservoir rose six feet in the four days between April 15 and 19.
From a winter low of 7,122 feet, Loyd’s Lake has already risen 13 feet to 7,135 feet. On April 16, the South Creek concrete measuring structure was overflowing and the Pine Draw and Shingle Mill Draw combined were exceeding the South Creek flow.
The capacity of Loyd’s Lake is 3,625 acre-feet of water. At the current time, the reservoir holds an estimated 1,900 acre feet of water.
And what make’s water lovers hearts swoon is the runoff which is still to come from the higher elevations, where it has hardly begun. Several days of unusually warm weather may bring record flows into Loyd’s.
Of course, the rate of rise drops as any lake fills up because it spreads out. But, at just the present rate, Loyd’s Lake could be completely full soon.
Recapture Lake is another story. On Saturday afternoon, at the measuring station above Recapture Lake, there was a roaring flood. Danny Fleming, Blanding City Water Manager, reports that there as been as much as 50 second feet of water flowing into Recapture. Put another way, that is about 370 gallons per second, or five million gallons per day.
Fleming reported on April 19 that Recapture Lake is just a few feet below the outlet structure and that the lake may reach capacity as soon as Friday afternoon.
If you are a true desert rat who loves water, pack a picnic and go down and watch millions of gallons of water race down the multi-million dollar spillway on the south side of the dam this weekend.
This bigger, better spillway was constructed at the same time the highway through Devil’s Canyon was rebuilt and it has not yet been used.
Other creeks and drainages are flowing high. On Friday, Verdure Creek had left its banks and was 80 feet wide in places.
There have been four years with more mountain snowpack since the Sno-tel reporting station began making measurements in 1986, including 1993, 1997, 2005 and 2007. However, it is fair to say that there has not been a year in memory with more lower-elevation snow pack than in 2010.