News Flash

Summit County Government

Posted on: June 13, 2019

Summit County Urges Caution During Spring Runoff

Avalanche debris in Tenmile Creek

High water levels can pose hazards for property owners, boaters, children and pets

Contacts: Brian Bovaird, Emergency Management Director: 970-423-8912; Erin Opsahl, Summit County Sheriff's Office: 970-423-8901

SUMMIT COUNTY – With river flows on the rise, Summit County encourages residents and visitors to be mindful of high water levels and potential flooding throughout the area. Waterways in and around Summit County can pose increased safety risks this time of year, as the spring snowmelt reaches peak runoff.

As of early June, cumulative precipitation in the Upper Colorado watershed is about 20 percent higher than average, so Summit County residents, visitors and property owners should be especially vigilant this year when it comes to swift-water safety and flood preparedness. 

“After a cool and snowy spring, our typical runoff flows are arriving a few weeks later than normal, but over the past week we've seen a steady rise in water levels in most of Summit County's rivers and streams,” said Special Operations Sgt. Mark Watson of the Summit County Sheriff's Office. “Everyone needs to treat these waterways with respect and caution right now, because a river during runoff season is a lot more powerful than what we're accustomed to during the rest of the year.”

As of June 13, the Blue River was running at 705 cubic feet per second (cfs) below Dillon Reservoir; Tenmile Creek was running at more than 815 cfs below its confluence with North Tenmile Creek; flows in the Blue River below the Swan River exceeded 550 cfs.

Summit County urges people to be cautious of fast currents caused by elevated flows when they're participating in outdoor activities on or near the water this spring and early summer. It’s especially dangerous for children and pets playing along the shores of fast-moving water, as they can easily slip on wet, muddy banks and be swept away.

Safety considerations in Tenmile Creek deserve extra attention this year. In March, a historic avalanche cycle deposited large amounts of debris – boulders, mature trees, ice, snow and soil – in Tenmile Canyon. Recreational kayaking and rafting is strongly discouraged because of risk of entrapment. Debris that becomes dislodged in the canyon may also pose hazards downstream, through Frisco toward Dillon Reservoir.

Stream flows are likely to be especially high during extended periods of warm, sunny weather and during prolonged rain events. Flows in some stretches are also influenced by the release of water from dams. Summit County’s rivers and streams typically experience peak flows during late May through mid-June.

Summit County strongly discourages people from any recreational activities in the water without proper training, experience and equipment. The Sheriff's Office recommends the following guidelines to stay safe around high water:

  • If flooding occurs, get to higher ground immediately.
  • Stay away from flood-prone areas, including dips, low spots, valleys, ditches, washes, etc.
  • Avoid flooded areas and those with fast-moving water. 
  • Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream. Six inches of moving water is all it takes to sweep a person off his or her feet.
  • Don’t allow children or pets to play near high water, storm drains, culverts or ditches.
  • Flooded roads could have significant damage hidden by floodwaters. Never drive through floodwaters or on flooded roads. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. It only takes two feet of water to wash away most automobiles.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly when water levels are high or fluctuating.
  • When recreating in or around the water, use the proper size and type of personal floatation device (PFD, or life jacket).
  • Anglers should wear wading belts to prevent water from entering waders during a fall.
  • Be especially cautious at night, when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
  • Monitor NOAA Weather Radio or your local media for vital weather-related information.

Local and state officials have been monitoring flows in waterways throughout Summit County and are prepared to respond to flooding. During April, May and June, public works departments across the county are busy removing debris and obstructions in waterways and culverts. Public works departments have also set up sandbag stations throughout the community for use by residents, businesses and property owners.

Members of the public are encouraged to review the Summit County Swift Water Safety and Flood Preparedness Guide at The guide contains information on the history of high water events in Summit County, instructions on building a sandbag levee, household checklists, safety tips, flood insurance information and more.


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