Dolores River Instream Flow below the San Miguel Confluence:

An article was published in the Durango Herald recently (access article here) about the instream flow on the Dolores River below the confluence with the San Miguel River.  We have fielded a number of questions about the instream flow right so we prepared some information to share.  Please click HERE to access this information!

Here is the latest post on the DWCD website on the forecast/release….there will not be a downstream release on the Dolores this year due to the extreme lack of moisture.  They also briefly address the new 900 cfs in stream flow at the bottom.

McPhee Release Update April 30, 2018



Limited Fish Pool Releases Below McPhee

CBRFC forecasts have continued to fall as each storm passed by the upper Dolores watershed.  There will be no spill (managed release) in 2018.  The fish pool like the farmers will be shorted in 2018.  CPW continues to evaluate and update release amounts with each new forecast.  Fishery releases look to top out between 40 – 50 CFS over the summer.

Final numbers won’t be calculated until July, when CPW can make a final release schedule.  Current inflow forecasts continue to look similar to 2002, the worst year in Dolores Project (McPhee) records.  Only 1977 appears to be slightly drier than 2002 for the complete 100+ year Dolores River gaging record.

The Dolores Project irrigators, towns and fishery will use all of the current carry over storage in McPhee.  Next year’s supply will depend slightly on monsoons later this summer and mostly on next winter’s  snow pack.  Ending the 2018 water year with little to no carryover increases the risk of deeper Project shortage next 2019 irrigation season.

New 900 CFS ISF below the confluence with the San Miguel

A recent court case upheld the new 900 CFS instream flow right from April 15 to June 15 below the confluence of the San Miguel with the Dolores River.  These flows will only be available when snow pack produces sufficient natural runoff to provide 900 CFS from a combination of both rivers.  These new junior water rights do not affect senior water rights such as McPhee Reservoir diversions & releases, but may restrict additional new municipal supplies to Norwood, Naturita & Nucla.


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The Dolores River is one of Colorado’s most colorful and sublime rivers. Its headwaters begin at approximately 14,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains near Lizard Head Pass. It flows south past the towns of Rico and Dolores, and makes a horseshoe turn at McPhee Reservoir, which was completed in 1987 to divert water for municipal and agricultural uses. Below the reservoir, the river again flows north past the communities of Dove Creek and Gateway. A full 230 miles from its headwaters, it joins the Colorado River in Utah’s red rock desert near Moab.

Much of the river flows through the heart of more than 250,000 acres of wilderness study areas–public lands that are part of the Bureau of Land Management’s National Conservation Lands. The Dolores River Canyon, Sewemup and The Palisade wilderness study areas are among them. Residents in this part of Southwest Colorado are working to ask Congress to protect the Lower Dolores River (the reaches downstream of McPhee Reservoir) as a National Conservation Area and Wilderness. The Dolores River below the reservoir offers one of the country’s longest wilderness river floats–170 miles through unspoiled canyons and forest habitat. It is rich in archaeological resources and unique plant and wildlife habitat.

Thank you to our 2018 SPONSORS!

We want to THANK our Class I – V Sponsors who are supporting our efforts and programs through generous in-kind and financial contributions:

(If you are interested in being a sponsor, please contact Amber at amber@doloresriverboating.org or at 970-799-8704.)