With back to back weekends of heavy mountain snow expected from now through Sunday, our statewide snowpack has fluctuated like the CFS gauge of a western freestone river this winter. As we move into spring mother nature is throwing us yet another, albeit happily accepted curveball. While we enjoyed a moisture-rich February and early March, the remaining weeks up until recently have been noticeably dry and unseasonably warm. The past couple of weeks have brought moisture rich weather systems through Colorado, producing measurable snow accumulations, most notably at higher elevations. See the following Snowpack Map that illustrates our current snowpack picture.
From the map above you can clearly see that the Northern half of the state is faring substantially better than the southern half. There is no doubt that levels in the Southwestern portion of the state are alarming, but keep in mind that they aren’t anything that this part of the state hasn’t seen in the past. The Arkansas and Gunnison basins are also noticeably below average, but there is plenty of spring to come and the recent storms are a good reminder of mother natures unpredictability. River basin’s in the Northern part of the state is fairing at 80% or better, and should see an adequate supply of water through the summer season.
But let’s get down to the real question, that being what will our runoff be like this spring? Across most of the state, we’ve seen our early season “valley melt” (10,000’ and lower) take place, which is always the key indicator to the beginning of our favorite time of year, THE FIFTH SEASON. Over the course of the next 45 - 60 days we should see stellar fishing across the state. With temperatures remaining at or below freezing at the higher elevations (10,000’ and above) this time of year, our high elevations snow will linger until we get the warmer temperatures of early summer. This means that our resident trout populations will be feeding aggressively in anticipation of our annual runoff, meaning ideal fishing conditions for us all.
In regards to runoff, this is still a bit of an unknown as we are in one of our wettest months of the year, with another to follow in May. As we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks, Mother Nature isn’t done with her Winter fury, and it’s not unlikely for us to see a few more bouts of winter snow in the coming weeks. Additionally, it has been noted by water managers that our current snowpack is void of the dust layers we’ve seen in years past, which is a good thing as we look towards our annual melt. In the past, these dust layers have acted as an attractor of sunlight, ultimately conducting additional heat from the sun's UV rays resulting in an expedited melt of our high mountain snow. Because these dust layers never formed during this past winter, we should see a slower melt of our mountain snowpack, allowing water to flow into our states streams at a more moderate pace, ultimately elongating our spring runoff.
What we all need to keep our fingers crossed for regardless is bountiful Summer rains. While our snowpack isn’t ideal, some consistent moisture this spring and summer will certainly help improve our water situation for the coming years. So cross your fingers, do your rain dance, or whatever you feel will help us increase our odds of a wet spring and summer.