We’ve had a lot of rain recently. And no doubt you’ve heard about the massive amounts of snowpack in the high country, and the potential for high levels of runoff this season. So how does this impact Clear Creek in Golden? In a typical year, the water flow in Clear Creek will rise upwards of 1500 cubic feet per second (cfs) during runoff season. Compare that to off-season when flows are between 50 to 200 cfs. This year, there are estimates that the runoff levels have the potential to go over 3000 cfs. The levels will depend on weather in the high country and how fast the snow melts. It’s also possible we will not see a tremendous impact to our water flow. Regardless, the runoff season makes the water very dangerous.
The faster the flow, the more dangerous the water. Dirt and debris fill the water, and makes it much more hazardous. Additionally, the water temperature during the snow melt season is very cold and can cause hypothermia. Shivering is typically the first sign of hypothermia and can lead to confusion, loss of motor skills, and even death. The most common causes of drowning in moving water are hypothermia and blunt force trauma from getting hit by debris and rocks.
The Golden Fire Department recommends you ALWAYS wear proper safety gear when getting into the water. At the very least, you should have a life vest, helmet, and shoes even if you are just planning to float down in a tube. Additionally, we recommend thermal protective clothing and gloves. Keep children away from the river’s edge, as one slip could put them out of reach in an instant. Similar with pets, do not let them swim in the open water. Golden also enforces leash laws, so your pets should never have an opportunity to get far away from you. If your pet does get caught in the water, call 911 immediately but DO NOT go in after your pet. They have a much stronger instinct and chance for survival than humans.
Remember, Clear Creek is a natural waterway that cannot be shut off or diverted. It is powerful and relentless, but predictable. With the proper training and safety equipment, the creek can be enjoyed in a safer manner. However, there is always a level of danger with moving water.