Pete’s Oregon and Northern California Snowpack update and rafting season predictions..

Mornin everyone!

All right, I am going to do something I have never done before. I am going to break down the snowpack, long term forecast, and spring and summer flow prediction for each river that we run… I actually do it neurotically every spring, I just have never written it all out. It has been an up and down year, it started off a little scary, but is finishing VERY strong! Here we go, it is looking pretty good!


Northern California Rivers / Rafting Seasons:

The California Salmon: The snowpack for the Northern California region is at about 93%. After lots of research (including backcountry skiing :)) my guess is that the Salmon drainage is somewhere between 95% and 105%. So basically an average year – perfect. The long term weather forecast through April 8th calls for below normal temperatures and normal precipitation so the pack may even increase a little more.

California Salmon Rafting Season prediction: Hmmm… A lot depends on the weather in May but my guess is we will have runable flows through June 15th with the peak between May 16th and Memorial Day weekend. We still have room on both of those weekends!

The Scott: Like the Salmon I think the Scott has a slightly higher snowpack then the overall Northern California area. A big portion of its drainage was in the “Shasta Storm Vortex” when Shasta got like 10 feet of snow in two days. I am guessing 95% to 115%.

Scott Rafting Season prediction: Hmmm… This one is tougher because you never know how much water will be diverted for farming… a lot depends on how much rain the fields get in April. I am going to guess runable flows through May 18th with a really good chance of making it through Memorial Day. A good solid Scott season.

The Lower Klamath: The Lower K is dam controlled so all we need is to be above about 65 – 70%. We are at 110%!

Lower Klamath Rafting Season prediction: Great water for rafting and inflatable kayaking all summer long.

Oregon Rivers / Rafting Seasons:

The Owyhee River: This one is always a bit of a crap shoot… a finicky low elevation snowpack, March temperatures that can zoom from 20 to 80… Good fun.  The great news is we only got about 4 days of the dreaded “late March unseasonably hot weather season destroying melt” and the long term forecast looks cooler than normal. Right now we are at 89% and I expect that will go up in the next few weeks with the weather. The Owyhee season literally depends on the last two weeks in March and first two weeks in April.  Things are looking great!

Lower Owyhee Rafting Season prediction: I feel very confident about the trips through the first few weeks in May (the May 1st trip should be awesome), and confident about our May 15th trip. After that who knows… Maybe a trip after Memorial Day weekend??? It could happen! Overall a solid Lower Owyhee season (some years we don’t have a season at all!).
Note: This does not affect our late June Lower Owyhee inflatable kayaking trips – they run on low base flows.

Middle Owyhee Rafting Season Prediction:  The middle needs higher flows then the lower and we need to be able to get into the put-in (meaning the roads need to be dry). Last year we had an unbelievable window – trips from mid April through late may! This year I feel really good about late April through the first week in May. The April 27th trip looks perfect.


The Illinois River: The Illi snowpack is probably about 80% (that is a wild guess:)). But illinois trips are all about late season precipitation – we have had a ton of that. Snowpack helps with the very rare late May/Early June trips.

Illinois Rafting Season Prediction: Yikes, this one might be the hardest of all. Baring any flooding, I think we will have good flows thought the May 12 the trip. I don’t think we will make it to Memorial Day this year. The trips from April 23rd through the 12th look great! Another perfectly normal season.

The Rogue: The Rogue is dam controlled and the volcanic rocks in its huge drainage area act like a big sponge and release water slowly throughout the season. So, the Rogue only needs to be above 70% or so. It is at 105%!

Rogue Rafting season Prediction:  Great water for rafting and inflatable kayaking all summer long!

The Upper Klamath: The upper Klamath is also dam controlled and it has ”daily peaking flows” for power generation so even in low snow years there is usually big water rafting all summer. This year it is at 105%. The best thing about that is, for this year at least, the farmers and struggling Salmon populations should both get water.

Upper Klamath Rafting prediction: Big water class 4+ rafting all summer long – even when other class 4+ rivers are low and rocky the upper k will be a blast.