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Snowpack and Different Things That Effect Your Choice of a River Trip!

a canyon with a mountain in the background

Great snowpack for Colorado this 2023 Season! Rivers are one of nature’s most captivating and powerful forces. Recreating on rivers is one of the most popular vacations for thousands of people worldwide. The United States of America has over 250,000 rivers, with a total of about 3,500,000 miles of rivers. They can be a source of life and beauty but also pose a risk to boaters when water levels rise too high. The snowpack is one of the most significant factors affecting river levels. Understanding the factors that affect river levels from a renowned river guiding company is essential for anyone who wants to explore these natural wonders safely and responsibly. 

Read more to learn how snowpacks and other factors can impact river water levels, and how the over 40 years of outfitting Dvorak Rafting Expeditions handles any natural issues that might occur on a trip you choose.  


Snowpack and River Levels

Snow can accumulate to great depths and volume in areas with high elevations, such as the Rocky Mountains or the Sierra Nevada range. When this snow begins to melt, it can create a significant increase in river flow levels.

The snow that falls each winter can vary widely depending on these factors, including location, altitude, and weather patterns and most assuredly climate changes. The timing of the snow melt is also essential. If the snow melts too quickly, it can overwhelm the rivers and cause flooding. If it melts too slowly, it can lead to low water levels during the prime summer rafting season (May-September) months.

As Colorado’s first Licensed Outfitter, Dvorak Rafting Expeditions is well aware of the impact of snowpacks on river levels, and our staff keep a close eye on the snow melt patterns in the areas where we operate. We can predict the timing and intensity of the water flows, which helps us to plan our river trips accordingly. We have choices if one river or section of a river, like the (Arkansas River), flows too high we can easily move to another section on the same river or change to one of the other 6 rivers we offer, that would be more suitable. 

Other Factors That Affect River Levels

  • Rainfall: In areas with heavy rain, rivers can quickly become swollen and dangerous for rafting and kayaking. 
    • Our management and guides keep a close eye on the weather forecast, and we monitor the amount of rainfall in the areas where we operate to avoid areas that may be too high in volume for a safe trip.
  • Dam Releases: Considering dam releases in advance is essential to planning a river trip. It requires careful consideration and coordination with authorities to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
    • We receive updates throughout the year on any and all conditions that will affect the safe navigation of our river trips and activities.  
  • Human Activity: Diverting a large amount of water from a river for irrigation or other purposes can significantly lower the water levels. 
    • Our expert staff know about the human activities that help us anticipate water level changes and adjust the itinerary accordingly.
  • Temperature: In areas with hot summers, water levels can drop as water evaporates more quickly. Conversely, water can freeze in regions with cold winters, leading to lower water levels. 
    • We may adjust our trip schedules to enjoy more relaxed morning or evening temperatures. One common misnomer is that an afternoon trip will be warmer than a morning trip, but keep in mind that in Colorado it typically rains in the afternoon not the mornings. 
    • Also consider the altitude of our rivers as they vary from 4,000 ft to as high as 9,000 ft. 
  • Topography: Rivers that flow through narrow canyons or steep valleys may be more prone to sudden changes in water levels. 
    • In such a case, we may take extra precautions to ensure your safety.
    • Also the class of whitewater will be more technical with steep gradients and compressed river volumes in narrow canyons. 
  • Water Allocation: Not everyone realizes that every drop of water in western rivers is owned by someone. We and other long-time outfitters have long worked with these water owners to create the voluntary flow management programs (VFMP), on the Arkansas River.  
    • This allows us to flatten the peek flows in the spring, May, and conserve water so we have good runnable flows each year through the middle of August. 


Dvorak Expeditions Est 1969 – With over 44 years of river outfitting experience in the western USA we specialize in river trips throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, and our experienced professional guides will navigate any river conditions you may encounter on your choice for rafting. You can choose the most exciting Class IV-V rapids or an adventurous milder Class II-III river experience from our many river activities.  The time in now, Contact us and let’s plan together for your adventure of a lifetime!