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Powerful runoff has Vail Valley mountain rescue groups on alert
A raft was wrapped around a pylon in the Eagle River near Eagle last weekend. Two women and their dogs were able to swim to safety.
Eagle County Sheriff's Office 

Powerful runoff has Vail Valley mountain rescue groups on alert

Sheriff recommends only professional boaters risk rising waters
By David O. Williams

May 24, 2008 —  Like surfers eagerly awaiting tsunamis, rafters and kayakers are taking the plunge into huge spring runoff conditions in the mountains this Memorial Day Weekend, in some cases ignoring flood advisories to do so.

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office is recommending only professional boaters brave the rising rivers in the central Rockies, especially after two women capsized their raft last weekend and then wrapped it around a pylon near Eagle (see picture). They were able to swim ashore with their two dogs, but things could have gotten ugly.

The Eagle River, which starts high in the mountains above Minturn, dumps into the Colorado River near Dotsero. The Eagle River in that area below Gypsum was running at about 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Saturday, May 17, and with warm weather during the week, topped 4,000 cfs on Thursday. Friday cooled off and the river dropped to about 2,800 cfs.

The Colorado River, which is under flood advisories in several sections, was running at 15,400 cfs below Glenwood Springs, and the river closed sections of Interstate 70 during the day on Friday. Mountain rescue groups are warning high water will last for three or four more weeks.

For the latest river flow levels, go to the Colorado Division of Water Resource’s website at, and for the latest flood watches and advisories, go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website at

Light snow in the Vail Valley Saturday morning slowed the melt-off even more, but the sun was back out Saturday afternoon, and forecasters were calling for temperatures in the upper 50s for the rest of the Memorial Day Weekend.

Check out the video below to see some rafters in action on the Eagle River below Minturn Friday morning, where the river was running at about 650 cfs.



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