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USBR - Updated Lake Level Forecast January 2021

cdrew

Member
I agree that in a general sense, low water levels are no impediment to having fun at the lake. In fact, in a lot ways, I like the low levels, because I think it makes some of the side canyons a lot more interesting to see on foot. I also think for every whale that emerges, another hazard becomes manageable. For every beach that goes high and dry, another one emerges. And so it goes...

But what I like most about low water levels is that they tend to scare off visitors. The NPS data pretty much confirms the correlation, with a little lag time after the peaks, and with a big asterisk in recent years because of publicity via things like Facebook and Instagram. Here's the arc of recent attendance history relative to lake levels:

1. From 1973-83, annual visitation hovered just below 2 million +/-, but after the lake hit that stretch after filling in 1980 (and especially after the huge peak in 1983), visitation climbed steadily, peaking at 3.5 million in 1988, and it stayed there until 1992.

2. By the early 90s the lake had been steadily dropping for a few years, sliding back from 1988-92. And once that downward trend became news by 1992, attendance began to fall, bottoming out in 1998 at 2.4 million.

3. In the late 90s, the lake was on a steady rise again, especially from 1995-99, and so attendance started rising again after that trend was clear. In 1999-2000 attendance was up to about 2.5-2.6 million.

4. Then came the big lake level drop of 2000-04. And so attendance dropped below 2 million in 2003 and stayed there until 2009. But with the lake again on the rise (and peaking in 2011), attendance shot up again, and after a slight lull in 2012-13, was up to 3 million in 2016.

5. Now, in very recent years (say since 2010), the other big influence on visitation I think is the online craziness through various promotions, plus Facebook and Instagram, and all kinds of things that draw visitors like gnats to the lantern. And so there was a visitation all-time high of 4.5 million in 2017. But since then, attendance is down a bit, and probably because of the unstable lake levels. It was 4.3 million in 2019. But I think the base visitation will continue to rise because of over-publicity through online platforms, so I'd expect a new peak explosion of visitors the year after an upward trend in the lake level is recognized ... just a hunch...

I would love to see an estimate for 2021 from NPS. Based on my VERY nonacademic observations, I think this year might be a record year at the lake. Boat sales are through the roof (used and new), a quick search for available vrbo's in page this year show that many are booked through the summer already, houseboat rentals for the year have been sold out for months, etc. Covid has driven us outdoors, and with a lot of people with extra cash, are looking to use their new toys at the most epic watersports lake in the western US. Add in the low water and one main channel and I think it will feel like a zoo depending on where you go. Maybe this is the year to head uplake...
 

Steve Moore

Well-Known Member
Colorado’s southern mountains just keep plugging along. Our property just below Blue Mesa has had more March snow than in years past.
 

Dworwood

Well-Known Member
I would love to see an estimate for 2021 from NPS. Based on my VERY nonacademic observations, I think this year might be a record year at the lake. Boat sales are through the roof (used and new), a quick search for available vrbo's in page this year show that many are booked through the summer already, houseboat rentals for the year have been sold out for months, etc. Covid has driven us outdoors, and with a lot of people with extra cash, are looking to use their new toys at the most epic watersports lake in the western US. Add in the low water and one main channel and I think it will feel like a zoo depending on where you go. Maybe this is the year to head uplake...
The crocs and zombies have increased up North, it is already a zoo up there too! It will be much safer to stay in the south this year!;)
 

Dave I.

Well-Known Member
Unfortunately, because of the siltation in the White Canyon area I don't believe Fort Moki will be visible anymore. Anyone able to go in there and check it out? From old photos it looks like the ruins aren't that far above the river near the mouth of the canyon. Here is an old photo I found (I believe it may have been the Doc Marston collection at the Huntington Library). From the vantage of this photo, sadly I believe it probably is sadly buried in mud.


View attachment 11548
I just talked to Katie at the Hite Outpost and she did inform me that the fort is starting to peek out of the water. I didn't go down and confirm this, but I don't have a reason to doubt her either.

Silted up, maybe. Completely covered, doesn't sound like it.

Maybe someone will give a first hands account or pictures of what it looks like now.
 

flowerbug

Well-Known Member
the trend is still looking better than it was a few weeks ago - especially with the recent more water content snow.

the forecast still calling for more snow. :)

to me this is looking like a year where we should see some gain off the low point, 15ft is my current minimum guess - i don't have a maximum because we can still get some big storms yet.
 

Steve Moore

Well-Known Member
the trend is still looking better than it was a few weeks ago - especially with the recent more water content snow.

the forecast still calling for more snow. :)

to me this is looking like a year where we should see some gain off the low point, 15ft is my current minimum guess - i don't have a maximum because we can still get some big storms yet.
I’m with you as long as springtime keeps on giving
 

thekid26

Active Member
Does the water for powell originate in utah or colorado, both? trying to figure out what weather to watch. there was a mention of a dry spring last year after all the snow, are they referring to dry weather around the lake or further north?
 

Steve Moore

Well-Known Member
Does the water for powell originate in utah or colorado, both? trying to figure out what weather to watch. there was a mention of a dry spring last year after all the snow, are they referring to dry weather around the lake or further north?
Wyo, CO UT and I think New Mexico. Last year we had good snowpack, but a devastating spring. Went straight from March to August
 

Dorado

Well-Known Member
The sad thing is, Wyoming and upper green river (which contributes 1/2 of the discharge that enters Lake Powell) had 130% of average snow pack last year. And it was a very wet spring through June. Despite that the lake barely came up....

it is 64 today in Pinedale Wyoming, and the snowpack is around 90% of average.....
 

JTJ

Well-Known Member
The lake was at 3566.3 April 3rd. Inflow for 2021 is 46% of average. The lake is currently at 36% of capacity. Halls Crossing and Wahweap are the only ramps open. Halls is 18.3' above minimum and Wahweap is 10.3' above minimum.
 

Kevin G

Active Member
So if USBR is predicting likely lake level at 3,550 at end of the year, leaving Halls Crossing the only ramp above absolute minimum (and that's 2 feet above absolute minimum at 3548). I believe I've read that the end of the ramp at Halls is another steep cliff - flirting with absolute minimum might be dangerous there. How would you pull a houseboat out of the water, even if it were sinking? Once you got it out of the water - what are you going to do about repairing it with next to no services there? I think there's a tough decision for people to make this year, and it might involve getting a lot of boats to dry storage for the winter.

 

Steve Moore

Well-Known Member
So if USBR is predicting likely lake level at 3,550 at end of the year, leaving Halls Crossing the only ramp above absolute minimum (and that's 2 feet above absolute minimum at 3548). I believe I've read that the end of the ramp at Halls is another steep cliff - flirting with absolute minimum might be dangerous there. How would you pull a houseboat out of the water, even if it were sinking? Once you got it out of the water - what are you going to do about repairing it with next to no services there? I think there's a tough decision for people to make this year, and it might involve getting a lot of boats to dry storage for the winter.

We are thinking the same thing. If no ramps are available to pull houseboats by an act of God, care Aramark keep changing us?
 

JFRCalifornia

Well-Known Member
USBR updated its forecast this morning, and as expected, not much has changed since its last update in March. Here's the short story, not much reason to elaborate:

1. They see it bottoming out at about 3562 or somewhere near the end of April or beginning of May, then making a small recovery to about 3568 in June. From there, it makes a slow slide down to 3550 by the end of 2021, and down to 3540 next spring before whatever runoff scenario plays out following the winter of 2021-22. That's the most likely scenario.

2. The worst case scenario sees it continually dropping all summer long so that by September its somewhere around 3540 or so, and down around 3535 by the end of 2021. In this scenario, it could reach 3520 or so next spring. Yikes.

3. Best case for all optimists out there? A recovery to about 3585 in June, ending 2021 at about 3575. But that seems unlikely now, because in their projection, they assume it bottoms out at 3566, and we're already below that. Seems they need to update the model run for this one...

Here's the link for all the grim details...


...and the elevation map...

 

Kirby

New Member
USBR updated its forecast this morning, and as expected, not much has changed since its last update in March. Here's the short story, not much reason to elaborate:

1. They see it bottoming out at about 3562 or somewhere near the end of April or beginning of May, then making a small recovery to about 3568 in June. From there, it makes a slow slide down to 3550 by the end of 2021, and down to 3540 next spring before whatever runoff scenario plays out following the winter of 2021-22. That's the most likely scenario.

2. The worst case scenario sees it continually dropping all summer long so that by September its somewhere around 3540 or so, and down around 3535 by the end of 2021. In this scenario, it could reach 3520 or so next spring. Yikes.

3. Best case for all optimists out there? A recovery to about 3585 in June, ending 2021 at about 3575. But that seems unlikely now, because in their projection, they assume it bottoms out at 3566, and we're already below that. Seems they need to update the model run for this one...

Here's the link for all the grim details...


...and the elevation map...

yes its obvious that they are using the new play book keep mead at a close constant level . The water grafs are incorrect it is so obvious all you have to do is look at the history of water fluctuation of mead then compare the grafs
you can plainly see there holding the water level of mead at a constant level and so we have high water fluctuations from Powel and Blue Mesa to maintain the new constant level of mead . Then look at the now inflows into Mead compared to the out flows as you can see how much the new las Vegas project is using . Just saying there is way more to the story and if you look closely you will see what is really going on. compare prior years of fluctuation of Powel or yearly lake levels and you will also see the new large lake fluctuations .
 
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