Middle Park snowpack remains above average as spring runoff begins
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Kremmling Field Office snow surveyors endured 60 degree days and burning sun to take the May 1 snow survey measurements during the last days of April. This is the final snow survey of the year, as the spring runoff has begun. Snowpack in the high-elevation mountains above Middle Park now ranges from 30 percent to 169 percent (average 123 percent) of the 30-year average. This is the highest May snowpack since 1996 and 1997, and considerably more than last year when it was 24 percent to 113 percent of average on May 1. Year-to-date precipitation in the Upper Colorado River Basin is 118 percent. Irrigators and river runners can look forward to above average spring runoff, which is now governed by temperature, wind, and possibly a few late spring storms. Today’s storm confirms Mark “Doctor” Volt’s thesis that “the only trouble with spring in this country is that winter is just around the corner.” Snowpack at low- to mid-elevation in Middle Park has been above average all winter, but is melting fast and is already gone at the lowest elevations. Deer and elk remain on their winter and early spring ranges, foraging on south and west slopes melted or blown clear of snow. Snow density is averaging 38 percent, which means that each foot of snow contains 4.5 inches of water. Statewide, snowpack is average to above average, with the highest snowpack in the Arkansas, Gunnison, and Colorado River basins. Reported readings for the major river basins in Colorado are as follows: – The upper Colorado River Basin averages 119 percent – Gunnison River Basin, 122 percent – South Platte River Basin, 101 percent – Yampa and White River Basins, 112 percent – Arkansas River Basin, 125 percent – Upper Rio Grande Basin, 109 percent – San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan River Basins 109 percent – Laramie and North Platte River Basins, 107 percent of average for this time of year. Most of the snow courses around Middle Park have been read since the 1930s. Snow course readings are taken at the end of each month, beginning in January and continuing through April. March is historically the snowiest month, and the April 1 readings are the most critical for predicting runoff and summer water supplies, as most of our high country snowpack peaks around that time. For further information, visit http://www.co.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/index.html.