Whitewater enthusiasts are already making waves -- because a deep snowpack on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains signals a good runoff in the Río Grande.
Skiers aren't the only ones excited by all this fresh powder. Whitewater enthusiasts are already making waves -- because a deep snowpack on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains signals a good runoff in the Río Grande.
So how much snow has fallen? As of press time (Jan. 13), Taos Ski Valley recorded 93 inches of snow; whereas the resort ended the 2017-18 season with 78 inches, according to Jonathan Stuart, public relations manager.
This year's active snowfall is a welcome sight to the many commercial rafting companies that operate in Taos County. Last year's cubic feet per second (cfs) levels in the Río were at historic lows. The U.S. Geological Survey monitors water data through its National Water Information System. The measuring systems at the Taos Junction Bridge recorded 150-200 cfs from July through October 2018.
But low water didn't stop locals and visitors from booking rafting trips and that's because it was a hot summer. The National Weather Service-Albuquerque recorded that 2018 was the third warmest year on record for New Mexico. So despite last year's low water, people still booked trips.
With this year's potential for high water, paddlers are excited. For New Mexico and Texas schools, spring break is scheduled for March 10-17.
Matt Gontram of New Mexico River Adventures said the company already has its first trip of the season booked for March 10. "Is this season looking good? Absolutely," he said.
He explained that the current temperature factor also helps predict a good rafting season. "With the temperatures staying as cold as they've been, that helps maintain the snow base on the mountains."
Although it is still too early to call projected water levels, higher flows generally mean boaters can run more expert sections of the river, like the Taos Box (rapids class IV-V), which had insufficient flows last year. Most people rafting last year experienced their rapids thrills on the Racecourse (rapids class III-IV) and Rio Chama (rapids class II-III minus).
Jake Walker is a guide who has been running the Taos Box since 1993. He said, "Without a doubt, this is one of those El Niño years that we hope for."
With all his decades of experience, Cisco Guevara of Los Rios River Runners is excited -- and watchful. "The snowpack comes down from the mountains above 10,000 feet. We watch when and how it melts. There have been some years where there was a very good snowpack, but it came down really early and was gone before the tourists came. Then there were some years that were really poor ski seasons, but it snowed after ski season ended and then it rained, so we had fabulous water levels," he said.
Steve Miller of New Wave Rafting said, "There will be a fair amount of water in the river early because it warms up and melts earlier in the north. For those who are hearty enough to deal with slightly colder water, there will be an earlier onset for runoff."
Miller lives right on the banks of the Río Grande in Embudo. "The river is just fabulous, it's a such a source of life. We have ducks, Canada geese and bald eagles wintering down here along the river."
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