Steamboat Springs — The phone was ringing at Backdoor Sports on the Yampa River in downtown Steamboat Springs late this week, but repeating the news that the downtown stretch of the river had slipped below tubing minimums was a painful exercise for proprietor Peter Van De Carr.
Commercial tubers are required to shut down when the river is below 85 cubic feet per second, and that’s where the town stretch of the Yampa has been during the day since Monday.
The river was flowing at 80 cfs past the U.S. Geological Survey gauge at the Fifth Street bridge at 6:30 Friday morning, and with vacationing families shifting into back-to-school mode, the tubing season is fast dwindling.
The median flow for this date is 165 cfs, but Van De Carr had a positive take on the way the summer has unfolded, calling conservation releases from Stagecoach Reservoir and voluntary releases from Lake Catamount a godsend.
Earlier this summer, the Colorado Water Trust made use of a new state law that allows for temporary leases of stored water rights and consummated a deal with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District to gradually release 4,000 acre feet of water into the river so that a portion of it could reach the town section and beyond. The releases are scheduled to last into September.
The Lake Catamount homeowners association responded in early July by releasing an additional amount that made the river more attractive for tubing.
The Yampa below Stagecoach was flowing at 68 cfs Friday morning, and gauges maintained by the Colorado Division of Water Resources showed that 69.5 cfs was flowing out of the outlet at the Lake Catamount dam and another 13 cfs was coming from the spillway.
If the Yampa is to become resurgent yet this month, it likely would result from a return to monsoon rain patterns or a resolution of legal details related to a Catamount proposal to the city of Steamboat Springs.
Catamount homeowners proposed to release additional water if the city would in turn agree to release an emergency reserve stored in Stagecoach downstream to Catamount for continued storage. That would in turn allow Catamount’s level to be sustained for homeowners who keep small boats on the lakeshore.