Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20th--Water Situation

It's been raining for the last few days up here in Wolf Creek/Craig, which is a very good thing. We definitely could use the water. The Missouri is running a bit low at just under 4,000cfs and the Dearborn, although it had spiked up to 900, is back down to around 400. If you use these flows as an indicator, we could be in for a tough summer. However, that's not really were our water comes from.
The headwaters to the Missouri are made up of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers. The Jefferson originates in the Big Hole Divide, (Big Hole River and Beaverhead,) and Ruby River, which are much lower than the Yellowstone Park where the Madison and Gallatin Rivers come out of. Typically, the Park gets much more snow-pack and stays longer than the Big Hole Divide Area. The Park also sees a lot more moisture with spring storms as has been the case this spring making the Madison and Gallatin flowing a little higher than average right now. The Jefferson is flowing lower than normal.

The Beaverhead River is fed by Clark Canyon Reservoir, which is at about 75% full right now. It doesn't look like we're going to be able to count on that drainage system for much contribution this year. What it might mean, however, is that those rivers will clear up and be fishing sooner than later. In fact, I'm pretty sure the Big Hole is fishing right now because I've seen some photos from friends of good quality fish. It might blow out again and probably will at least come up a bit but it looks like it will fish for a while. Cool weather will help keep it fishing.

The Gallatin and Madison are out right now and probably will be for a while. If we continue to keep getting storms in the Park, it will be good for the Missouri but will also keep those rivers from fishing longer.

Probably the best indicator of where we are on our water situation up here on the Mo is Canyon Ferry just below Townsend. Once the reservoir fills up, anything going into it has to come out. A few years ago we had huge storms in the spring and since there wasn't a lot of snow early, water was held in Canyon Ferry so that it didn't get too low. With the storms brought a ton of run-off and the reservoir filled up almost overnight and we went to 18,000 cfs. The next year, they tried to release water throughout the winter but with all the snow downstream in Eastern Montana and the Dakotas, they held water to help prevent flooding and again, the reservoir filled up and when they finally released it, we saw 22,000 cfs.

This year will be a very different story, regardless of the precipitation we get. It is possible that we get some huge rain storms that will affect the tributaries but as far as the main stem, I'm thinking we won't see even double digits. Canyon Ferry right now is only at about 75%. The early season could be epic with good flows and record numbers of fish. A lot of people are holding off booking trips so there is a lot of availability. Get on board soon though...just sayin.

Keep 'em where they live...

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