A Big Snowpack means a BIG Green River

A Big Snowpack means a BIG Green River

For winter enthusiasts, the last few months have been without a doubt, all time. Sledders, skiers and WYDOT have all gotten their fair share of “powder slaying” and it’s not even over.

This snow that has plagued the rest of us is soon going to begin melting and will need to go somewhere. At this point, the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center has predicted a near 50% probability that the snowpack this year may be exceed the highest year on record for the upper Green River drainage, which was in 1986. The total precipitation of in the upper Green River drainage is sitting at roughly 188% of normal. 188% means significant, potentially record snow runoff. All facts above are according to a recent email sent from the Bureau of Reclamation.

As the snow melts in the coming months, it will begin to fill Fontenelle Reservoir. The Bureau of Reclamation has stated in a recent email update to stakeholders that flows will begin to increase from Fontenelle Dam to potentially 4000 cubic feet per second (cfs) by mid-April in order to make room for the incoming runoff of May and June. The flows on the Green River from Fontenelle Dam are currently at 1060 cfs, which is normal for this time of year. Typically, 4000 cfs happens in May/June, not April.

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To my knowledge, these flows haven’t been seen in many, many years. Additionally, peak flows in June are forecasted to reach 11,000 cfs. As it stands now, the power plant at Fontenelle Dam can sustain these potential record-setting releases and they appear to have good foresight on how to manage the water, limiting the possibility for any disastrous scenarios this Spring. As soon as the ice threat of the lower river is gone in April, expect to see big water.

To put things into perspective, the peak releases in 2016 were just shy of 7000 cfs and a little greater than 7000 cfs in 2015 from Fontenelle Dam.


Big water blowing out of Fontenelle Dam

Our amazing, Green River will receive a significant “remodeling” of it’s banks, vegetation and streambed. The fish will gorge for months and see little pressure from most of the angling community, both resident and nonresident.

This will be quite the event to witness as the massive pushes of water are sent to the Colorado River. All of this is tentative and could change as runoff from the Wind River and Wyoming Mountain Ranges changes in the coming months.

We know one thing for sure – the river is going to be big, fast and virtually a ghost town for a while. For a me, a fishing guide on the Green who loves fishing high water below dams, I couldn’t be more excited.

Be safe if you venture out!


Ryan Hudson guides adventure seeking individuals on snowmobiling trips during the winter and fly fishing trips the majority of the year. He is the owner and head guide for Wyoming Fishing Company. He and his first mate, Ichabod the Black Lab, are a common sight on the Green River and enjoy exploring everything she has to offer. Get to know Ryan online or by joining on a trip.