Water Levels Strong at Gunnison-Crested Butte Area

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GUNNISON-CRESTED BUTTE, COLORADO June 8, 2004 - Fishermen, rafters, kayakers and water lovers are celebrating the best summer water flows in the Gunnison Basin in four years."We have good flows for all types of water recreation," said Mark Schumacher, owner of Three Rivers Resort & Outfitting who has been in the fishing, kayaking and rafting business for 22 years. "The Gunnison Whitewater Park will be running strong this summer, and we have excellent flows for fishing. With our water levels this year, you can float the rivers, or you can wade."

Area fisheries are also doing well, said Karen Shirley, manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. While Colorado has made headlines about drought and wildfires in recent years, conservative water management has insured abundant water in the Gunnison Valley's primary lakes and rivers, Shirley said. The Water Conservancy District responded to dry conditions by decreasing wintertime water releases and maintaining a higher storage level of water in the basin's reservoirs. This summer, both Taylor and Blue Mesa reservoirs will fill to deeper levels than in recent years, which will allow plentiful downstream water flow into the Taylor and Gunnison rivers all summer.

Shirley said, "After 2002, we managed the reservoirs to protect our water levels, and this year we also had better snow pack. Though we saw some melting in March, we had a pretty wet April and fairly cool May. That left us in good position for the summer."

Depending on weather, water levels in area rivers and streams should peak at the end of May or first week of June, she said. "It should still be big for the Gunnison Whitewater Festival in June."That festival will be held June 26-27, 2004, at the new Gunnison Whitewater Park on the Gunnison River (follow the signs from Highway 50 on the west edge of Gunnison). The Whitewater Park is already drawing a daily crowd of boaters, using the springtime water peaks to pull off aerials and other stunts.

Much of the valley's water recreation also centers around the Taylor River, which should have very good conditions for rafting and kayaking through August 15, and good water levels through the end of September.

The timing will be similar for all of the valley's watery playgrounds, Schumacher said. "Our peak releases will be in June, July and the first two weeks of August, but we'll have good flows through September 15.