How Our Snow Pack Impacts Summer River Flow Levels

 In Adventures & Travel, Nature & Wildlife, Rafting Safety

Aerial Photo of the Upper Arkansas River Valley taken by our owner Joe Greiner in March 2017.


Ever wonder how our winter snow influences the river? During the winter the snow doesn’t do too much for our water levels. However, as the temperature rises in the springtime, runoff and stream flow in the river is directly attributed to melting snow and ice.

Mountains like the Collegiate Peaks surrounding Buena Vista act as natural reservoirs, storing precipitation from the cooler season, we call this phenomenon “Snow Pack”. As the name implies, this is literally the amount of snow packed at the top of the mountains that melts during spring and summer to feed our rivers. Up to 75% of water supplies in the western United States are derived from snowmelt, so this snowpack levels are certainly worth noting when planning your whitewater rafting vacation.

Water levels rise dramatically when we enter the summer rafting season because the snowmelt is making its way down the mountains and into our rivers. This is what accounts for the wide range in CFS. Snowmelt can cause nearly all of the stream flow in a river. If you ever are visiting us in the winter, you’ll notice even sections known for their rowdy rapids like The Numbers seem pretty easy going this time of year.

Since the Arkansas River headwaters are located just north of us in Leadville, we see the direct impact of varying snowpack levels year over year. The better the winter, the better the rafting!

Typically mid to late June sees the highest water levels. Last summer we enjoyed an incredible high water rafting season and with the historic amount of snow we received this winter, we are eagerly awaiting the Memorial Day opening of our season! Don’t miss out this summer – secure your trip today by giving us a call at 1-800-IN A RAFT (1-800-462-7238) or book your whitewater rafting now online!

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