Columbia River Running High, Flooding Sections of Loop Trail
If you’ve been to any of the parks along the Columbia River in Chelan or Douglas County lately, you’ve probably noticed that water levels are running especially high.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Water Supply Specialist, Scott Pattee, says this year’s cooler-than-average spring has lengthened the region’s snowpack to well above normal levels in the mountains – and that’s causing an inordinate amount of water to enter the Columbia.
“We’re in very uncharted territory right now for snowpack,” explained Pattee. “The last time we saw an extended spring snow pack like this was 2011. Before that, we only saw a slight extension of snowpack twice since 1990.”
Chelan County PUD spokesperson Rachel Hansen says the rising river is cause for park users to be extra cautious.
“As high temperatures and runoff have raised the river(‘s) levels, we are encouraging our park users to be really careful,” says Hansen. “We’ve had reports of flooded trails, swift currents, and debris near the waterfront.”
The river has spilled over its banks and flooded sections of the Apple Capital Loop Trail at Kirby Billingsley Hydro Park and prompted the closure of the bridge at the south end of Walla Walla Point Park.
This year's 4th of July fireworks in Wenatchee, which are usually launched from an island several hundred feet from the shoreline at Walla Walla Point Park, are also being relocated to a landlocked section of the venue that will be closed to the public because the island is completely underwater.
According to the Northwest River Forecast Center, the Columbia is currently moving at a rate of 280,000 cubic feet per second and is 781 feet above sea level near Rocky Reach Dam.
River levels and flows are also elevated upstream all the way to the Canadian Border.
In the days ahead, milder temperatures are expected to bring river levels and flows down. Until then, park users and recreationists on the Columbia are advised to remain vigilant to the turgid conditions.