Bighorn River Spring Condition Update

Bighorn River Spring Condition Update

April 15, 2019 4:35 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

There is still some time to go as far gathering our Spring water content in the Bighorn Valley.  Currently, the Bighorn River System snowpack is at 97% of normal.  This is the number we like to see!  On the upper drainages (Wyoming), we’re sitting just above normal.  Late season precipitation can all change these, but we are looking really good at the moment.

We owe a big thanks to the Bighorn River Alliance and those of you who have donated to them in the past years.  During a meeting this past week in Billings, between the River Alliance, Bureau of Reclamation and Fish, Wildlife and Parks, there are now standards set on managing the lower Bighorn (Montana) as a sustainable fishery. The BOR announced that ALL 14 recommendations to improve Bighorn water operations will be implemented, providing relief and transparency in operations to downstream water users and the trout fishery.  This is HUGE!  We are beyond excited for things to come in the future.  Please check out #Savethehorn for more information on how the Alliance is helping the Bighorn system out.

Now to some of the details of the meeting regarding flows and fish populations this season, which we’re all waiting to hear.  As of now, based on current snowpack, inflows and weather patterns, and historical patterns of our system things are looking good!  Max flows are projected in the 6k-8k CFS range, and will most likely last a couple weeks and come around the later May – Early June time frame.  Expect the rest of the year to stick around the 3k mark.  There is no guarantees with mother nature, but certainly everything is on the right track.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks have not released definite fish count numbers, but there are plenty of them floating around to get a ballpark of where we are at.  On the upper 5 -6 miles (from the Afterbay to the Denver Club) fish numbers are somewhere in the 3000-3500 per mile range.  For some reason, below that, they drop off significantly to around 1000 per mile.  An interesting study to be noted is hardly any brown trout were captured in stocking studies below Bighorn Access.  It appears we have decent numbers of good sized 16-18″ rainbows in the system and they should make a good comeback on the lower river.  These numbers are definitely lower than we have seen dating back to even 5 years ago, but the important thing to remember is the Bighorn is one of the healthiest, fastest fish growing rivers in the world.  It will come back and we’re headed in the right direction with the new requirements adopted by the BOR.

 

CURRENT BIGHORN RIVER FLOWS AND WATER TEMPERATURE:

 

BIGHORN LAKE DATA:

Daily Reservoir Data as of 04/14/2019

Pool Elevation is 3615.2 Feet
Pool Elevation to Fill 24.8 Feet
Reservoir Storage is 796107. Acre-Feet
Reservoir Storage to Fill 224466.0 Acre-Feet
Reservoir Inflow is 3277.8 CFS
Reservoir Outflow is 3211.8 CFS
Reservoir is 78.0 % Full*
Reservoir Flood Control Pool is filled 0.0 %
Mean Daily Flow Below Afterbay Flow is 3270.2 CFS
Mean Daily Canal Diversion is 0.0 CFS
Mean Daily Total Flow at Afterbay is 3270.2 CFS

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This post was written by Pete Shanafelt

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