Local rafting outfitters spend a lot of time checking out the weather in the spring and trying to forecast what the season will be like. There are a lot of factors that determine the rafting season on the San Miguel River: snowpack, temperatures, rain, and late-season snow up in the high country. Some years, the rafting season on the San Miguel River can roll by as fast as the river itself, but this year, the stars are aligning and the above-average snowpack and the cool spring temperatures could make for a long, fun season.
Bootdoctors manager Dave Zaumseil says that if the season lasts until July 4th, then it's considered a success. Last year outfitters were able to run trips until July 9, and this year the snowpack is 30% above what it was in 2016. "We are optimistic that we'll have a long season, as long as it gets warm gradually," says Zaumseil. "Book early. It could be shaping up as a great season."
Mike Doherty of Telluride Outfitters is excited, too. He runs snowmobile tours, and when his clients ask when they should book a rafting trip, he always tells them "June." The season can peak as early as Memorial Day weekend, but typically the flows are the highest around the solstice, which is about the same time as Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Rafting is done when the flows dip down to 300-350 cfs (cubic feet per second). "We've been fortunate to have a great snow year, above average for the San Juans, and cold temperatures throughout spring," says Doherty. "Going toward the summer solstice, the longer days and higher temperatures tend to accelerate the snowmelt. We might be able to enjoy a June with 1200 cfs average days, which is great boating on the San Miguel."
The conditions are so prime that it might not just be great boating in June, it could also be great boating in July. John Duncan, one of the owners of Telluride Outside, says that the question of how high the water gets depends mostly on how hot the weather gets. "Last year, mid-June, we had the highest water in 30 years, and it was just an average snowpack. It's above average this year, and there's still plenty of snow to come down from up high. It looks like the best rafting is still to come, and we expect very good rafting through July."
The good news? The experts agree that this is going to be a fun and longer-than-average rafting season on the San Miguel. So book your trip and don't miss out. "It's all Class 3 whitewater — fast, splashy, and fun," says Duncan. "Bring a towel. You're gonna get wet."
Bootdoctors (877) 949-0470
Telluride Outfitters (970) 728-4475
Telluride Outside (888) 369-6971