Colorado: A tale of two snowpacks

This is an unfiltered iPhone shot, showing that, if the light is good to begin with, you don't need a lot of technical tricks.
A deep snowpack in late March along Tenmile Creek, in Frisco, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Snowpack bountiful north, a little sparse in the San Juans

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A persistent weather pattern across the U.S. in March once again benefited Colorado’s northern and central mountains, as a steady stream of storms brushed down the northern Rockies before roaring into the Midwest.

In the northwestern part of the state, the snowpack increased in the Colorado and Yampa river basins. The South Platte River Basin is at a near-record level. similar to 2011, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, which released results of the all-important April 1 snowpack survey.

By contrast, southwestern Colorado is on the eastern edge of a large area that’s very dry, including near-record drought in California. The snow survey showed  snowpack conditions across the southern mountains tracking below normal for the third consecutive month.

April 1 measurements put the Upper Rio Grande basin at just 79 percent of median, and the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins at 80 percent of median. While there’s a chance that spring snowstorms could boost the San Juan snowpack, forecasters are projecting below normal streamflows in southwestern Colorado. Usually, the snowpack reaches its maximum on April 1.

Statewide snowpack  is at 115 percent of median, which is 156 percent of the snowpack measured one year ago.  The current statewide report continues the trend of above normal totals that have been measured throughout this winter. This is great news for the state’s major water users who rely on the melting snowpack for the majority of their spring and summer surface water supplies.

Other than the Colorado and Yampa basins, the snowpack in the state’s other river basins declined slightly from March 1 readings.  The outlook for spring and summer water supplies in the northern mountains is good, according to the NRCS.

Above-normal spring runoff is is expected in the South Platte, Yampa, White and North Platte basins and the headwater portions of the Gunnison and Arkansas Basin.

At the end of March reservoir storage across the state was holding steady at 89 percent of average. The northern basins are all reporting storage above or near normal for this time of year while the Arkansas, Upper Rio Grande, and southwest basins all have below normal storage.

The table below shows Colorado’s snowpack and reservoir storage as of April 1, 2014.

Basin Snowpack
% of Median
% of Last Year
Reservoir Storage
% of Average
Last Year’sReservoir Storage
% of Average
Gunnison 112 157 95 70
Colorado 131 165 93 65
South Platte 142 200 108 89
North Platte 141 172
Yampa/White 125 158 105 98
Arkansas 112 156 60 49
Rio Grande 79 117 70 52
San Miguel, Dolores, Animas & San Juan 79 111 82 66
Statewide 115 156 89 69

For additional information about Colorado’s water supply conditions, please visit:


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