Look no further, the 2020 Arkansas River Rafting Season Outlook as of 4/28/20! As Colorado’s premier whitewater rafting outfitter, Arkansas River Tours brings you the Arkansas River Rafting Report for the 2020 white water rafting season. Our report is speculative based on years of whitewater rafting experience and government survey data. We hope to inform you about current and future river conditions so that you can pick the most ideal time for your summer river adventure. Without further delay, here is our outlook for the 2020 Arkansas River rafting season.
In summary, this is what we expect….
Water Conditions: Average + Long-Term Weather Forecast: Hot = PERFECT!
As you can see from the above graph how low the snowpack was in 2018 with a drought year and how high 2019 it was in a record wet year! We are currently sitting 86% of normal snowpack for the entire Arkansas River drainage. Even though this graph states we are slightly below average it can be deceiving as many of the snotel sites that average into this graph don’t impact the sections of river we run. The calculation that most outfitters and Colorado Parks & Wildlife use is to focus on 3 sites to predict the average snowpack relating to rafting flows. Brumley site, Fremont site, and Porphyry site (Monarch). Below is the calculation as of 4/28/20
Even though the snowpack is at 126% of average based on this calculation there are some offsets to this as our low elevation snow has melted and our soil moisture content is pretty dry. As the snow starts to melt the dry soil will soak up some of the moisture preventing some water from entering the river corridor.
Another factor that impacts the Arkansas River is the Fry-Ark Project which diverts water from the Fryingpan basin into the Arkansas basin. On average about 56k acre-feet of water is moved into the Arkansas basin and on 4/1/20 the Bureau of Reclamation forecasted an import of about 68k acre-feet. This is great news for our Voluntary Flow Management Program which is designed to maintain flows of 700 CFS until August 15th.
NOAA just issued a press release that 2020 has a 50%-75% chance of being the hottest year on record and a 99.9% chance of being in the top 5 hottest years on record. There is no way to predict what our summer weather will look like but we think it will be a warm one!
Our prediction of water and temperature conditions by month
*CFS = cubic feet per second, the standard measurement for water flows
May – Snowpack will start to melt more rapidly and flows will start out around 400 CFS and increase to roughly 1800 CFS. Air temps will be in the 70-80’s and the water temps will be chilly.
June – Flows will continue to rise and we see our peak close to 4,000 CFS sometime around June 10th. We expect to experience roughly 2 weeks of flows above 3,200. Air temps will be in the 80-90’s and the water temps will be chilly to start and warm up by the end of the month.
July – Flows will reside during the month and decease to around or below 1,000 CFS. Air temps will be +/- 90’s and water temps will start to feel great.
August – Flows will likely start out above 700 CFS and drop below 500 CFS after the 15th of August as our flow program finishes at that time. Air temps will be in the + 90’s and the water conditions will be the warmest of the season.
September and on – There will likely be a few rain events that create a spike in the flows a few times but we expect the flow to be less than 500 and decrease as time goes on. The air temps will start out 80-90’s and continue to cool down and water temp will start off pleasant and cool down as we move into the fall.
With all of the uncertainty in 2020, we are very grateful to have such great conditions on deck for this season. We hope that this information was helpful for you and that you will come join us so we can guide you through these perfect conditions on the Arkansas River.