Jeff Colton wants people who have been relishing the Powder River’s cool water during this, the hottest week of 2020, to know that the river will look quite different starting today.
More to the point, the river will be more dangerous for people who plan to float through Baker City on an inner tube or raft, a popular summer pastime.
Colton, who manages the Baker Valley Irrigation District, said Wednesday that the river’s volume would rise substantially early today as he releases water from Mason Dam, about 15 miles upriver, to meet irrigation demand in the Baker Valley.
The Powder’s flow in Baker City Wednesday was about 189 cubic feet per second (cfs). Colton said that will rise to 270 cfs or higher early Thursday.
Colton said he’s worried not just because the river will flow higher and faster, but because the abundance of tree limbs overhanging the river can snag people on inner tubes and potentially yank them off.
The river will be powerful enough that it can be difficult for floaters to maneuver around limbs, Colton said.
He urges people to scout their route before jumping in, as some sections are brushier than others.
And Colton recommends everyone don a life jacket before floating the river.
The high volumes will continue for a few weeks.