Early Snowpack Update

Early Snowpack Update

It’s never too early to start paying attention to how much snow’s in the mountains. The amount of snow we get from late October through early May and how this snow melts from April through June govern how much water we have in our rivers during the mid-June through September prime season. I post regular updates through the winter. Things WILL change drastically over the course of the winter. Last year we were looking at a very low snowpack until late January, with daytime highs in the 50s and some nights above freezing even in January, and then had some of the coldest and wettest weather in memory in February and early March. That said, here’s what we’re looking at so far.

The tables below show snowpack (the left-hand column of numbers) and total precipitation (the right-hand column) for Montana and Wyoming. Drainages within our operations area are in boldface, with the most-important drainages also set off with asterisk.

 

MONTANA
  KOOTENAI RIVER BASIN .........................  8 of  8      67        53 
  FLATHEAD RIVER BASIN ......................... 12 of 16      94        77 
  UPPER CLARK FORK RIVER BASIN ................. 13 of 15     100        80 
  BITTERROOT RIVER BASIN .......................  7 of  7      74        65 
  LOWER CLARK FORK RIVER BASIN .................  8 of  8      50        64 
  JEFFERSON RIVER BASIN ........................ 19 of 19      98        76 
  MADISON RIVER BASIN .......................... 11 of 11      83        67 ****************** (Madison River from YNP to Three Forks)
  GALLATIN RIVER BASIN .........................  7 of  7     108        98 
  MISSOURI HEADWATERS .......................... 31 of 31      96        78 
  HEADWATERS MISSOURI MAINSTEM .................  5 of  5     124        99 
  SMITH, JUDITH, AND MUSSELSHELL RIVER BASINS ..  9 of 10     139       100 
  SUN, TETON AND MARIAS RIVER BASINS ...........  5 of  6     186       100 
  MISSOURI MAINSTEM RIVER BASIN ................ 19 of 21     154       103 
  ST. MARY AND MILK RIVER BASINS ...............  3 of  3      98        81 
  UPPER YELLOWSTONE RIVER BASIN ................ 23 of 24     107        90 ****************** (Yellowstone from Gardiner to Billings, more or less, including the Boulder)
  WIND RIVER BASIN (WYOMING) ................... 11 of 13     103        68 
  SHOSHONE RIVER BASIN (WYOMING) ...............  5 of  6      97        83 
  BIGHORN RIVER BASIN (WYOMING) ................ 15 of 16     125       101 
  TONGUE RIVER BASIN (WYOMING) .................  6 of  7     136       108 
  POWDER RIVER BASIN (WYOMING) .................  6 of  7     176       133 
  LOWER YELLOWSTONE RIVER BASIN ................ 30 of 35     121        94 

WYOMING
  SNAKE RIVER .................................. 20 of 20      74        59 
  MADISON-GALLATIN .............................  5 of  5      74        54 ****************** (Madison Basin in YNP, the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers)
  YELLOWSTONE .................................. 14 of 14     102        81 ****************** (Upper Yellowstone River in Wyoming and Yellowstone Park, including the Lamar and Gardner)
  WIND RIVER ................................... 10 of 12     103        71 
  BIGHORN BASIN ................................ 10 of 11     149       115 
  SHOSHONE RIVER ...............................  5 of  6      97        83 
  POWDER RIVER .................................  6 of  7     176       133 
  TONGUE RIVER .................................  6 of  7     136       108 
  BELLE FOURCHE ................................  2 of  2     179       113 
  CHEYENNE RIVER BASIN .........................  2 of  2     161        95 
  UPPER N. PLATTE .............................. 16 of 19     103        81 
  SWEETWATER ...................................  3 of  3      69        54 
  LOWER N. PLATTE ..............................  4 of  4     193       111 
  LARAMIE RIVER ................................  7 of  7     140       103 
  S. PLATTE ....................................  2 of  3     140       109 
  LITTLE SNAKE RIVER ...........................  8 of  8     134        78 
  UPPER GREEN RIVER ............................ 13 of 14      75        60 
  LOWER GREEN RIVER ............................  7 of 11     103        81 
  UPPER BEAR RIVER .............................  8 of 10      91        64

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Generally speaking, the above means we’ve got a good start to the snowpack in the northern and eastern parts of our operations area, basically meaning the Yellowstone River and its tributaries, and things aren’t as good further to the south and west. The Madison Basin in YNP in particular has some catching up to do. The long-range NOAA outlooks through climatological winter (through February) suggest we’re looking at a warmer-than-normal winter (bad) but also a wetter than normal winter (good). So all in all, we’re hopeful that we’ll have a near-normal snowpack by late spring just about everywhere again this winter, as we’ve had throughout our operations area in 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19. This run of sustained decent water is a nice change from the yo-yo years we had from 2001 through 2015-2016.

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