Winter Snowpack Update
With the unusual weather the Pacific Northwest is experiencing this winter, we are frequently asked about the upcoming rafting season. Specifically, what will the rivers be doing? We cruised around the web for the best information on our rivers’ snowpacks and landed on the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) site. Trying to summarize the charts of data we found made our brains’ short circuit and then we found this easy to read, handy-dandy map (click on the map to make it larger…’cause those dots are tiny!):
(Disclaimer: This map is through Feb 1, 2015 – we still have 2-3 more months of snow season to go!) While it’s nice that this map has provided a beautiful rainbow of colors to look at, the red and oranges are not so good. The Cascades, for a 2nd year running, are well below their median snowpack this time of year. East of in Northeast Oregon, yellows, greens, and blues dominate the map. We can’t ignore that there are some orange dots scattered about east of us, too, meaning Old Pops Winter has some work left to do all over the west.
So what does this mean for our river season? The Snake River in Hells Canyon and the Salmon River are both in great shape for summer floating. Their watersheds are large. The Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers have smaller watersheds and need more snow. We’ll still be floating these rivers in May and June. And hopefully the sharing of water for irrigation and fish passage go well this summer,too.
We’ll keep our oars and paddles crossed that the spring brings its typical snows to the Pacific Northwest. Come on spring snow!**
**A quick note here to recognize there are many angles to analyze with snowpack and water availability. This article is a simplified take on the issue since we’re river outfitters. However, we are also scientists and concerned members of our community and realize that the low water in our region means tough times for our local natural resources and those who depend on them.