Staircase Wave in Early June

A standup paddleboarder watches the action at the Staircase Wave Saturday in the Buena Vista River Park.

Kayakers and SUP surfers enjoyed the Staircase Wave on the Arkansas River on Saturday, June 8. The river has swelled steadily as the winter’s historic snowpack begins to melt.

U.S. Geologic Survey Data captured instantaneous discharge rates near Nathrop at 2,420 cubic feet per second on Saturday and 3380 cfs on June 11. Compare that to a maximum recorded level of 4,430 cfs at that site on that day in 1980 and a mean flow rate of 2,030.

The Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation area has issued high-water advisories for Pine Creek and the Numbers, strongly discouraging paddlers from attempting those rapids.

The USGS Nathrop site measured the river flowing at 970 cfs on June 11, 2018.

The Department of Agriculture’s SNOTEL survey of the Arkansas River Basin measures the current liquid water equivalent at 691 percent of average and at 35 percent of its peak levels on March 25.

On the 11th, SNOTEL data reports the liquid water equivalent in the basin at 5.6 inches. Only three years in the 38-year survey reported a more water in the mountains that feed the Arkansas at this point in the year: 1995, 1983 and 1984.

According to the USDA data, the basin has only a fraction of an inch less water in it now than it did at its heaviest point in 2018: The snowpack last year peaked on April 22 at 6.1 inches. By June 11, 2018, the snowpack was all but depleted at 0.1 inches.

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