Rising rivers have rescuers on edge in the mountains

Like surfers eagerly awaiting tsunamis, rafters and kayakers are taking the plunge into huge spring runoff conditions in the mountains this Memorial Day Weekend, in some cases ignoring flood advisories to do so.

(Photo/David O. Williams)The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office is recommending only professional boaters brave the rising rivers in the central Rockies, especially after two women capsized their raft last weekend and then wrapped it around a bridge pylon near Eagle. They were able to swim ashore with their two dogs, but things could have gotten ugly.

The Eagle River, which starts high in the mountains above Minturn, dumps into the Colorado River near Dotsero. The Eagle River in that area below Gypsum was running at about 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Saturday, May 17, and with warm weather during the week, topped 4,000 cfs on Thursday. Friday cooled off and the river dropped to about 2,800 cfs.

The Colorado River, which is under flood advisories in several sections, was running at 15,400 cfs below Glenwood Springs, and the river closed sections of Interstate 70 during the day on Friday. Mountain rescue groups are warning high water will last for three or four more weeks.

For the latest river flow levels, go to the Colorado Division of Water Resource’s website and for the latest flood watches and advisories, go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website.

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail and Real Aspen.