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Spring 2016 River Flow Forecast

by Kyle Dittmer, CRITFC Meteorologist

The spring snowmelt (or freshet) causes rising high water levels in the Columbia River and its tributaries each year. This condition helps get salmon smolts downriver quickly, but also makes it dangerous for fishers. CRITFC monitors river conditions and forecasts during the year.  We inform fishers of the predicted timing and nature of the freshet to help improve their river safety. River flow will increase in late April, peaking in early June (flow will be fastest during that time), then recede through late June.


The NOAA-National Weather Service March 29 river spring-summer forecasts are at 101% of normal.  Despite the forecast for a strong El Niño, where winter conditions would be dry, warm, and poor snowpack accumulation, the season has seen more mountain snow than expected. This means that the freshet will be near normal this spring, giving favorable conditions for juvenile salmon migrating out to the ocean and for returning adults.  Unfortunately ocean conditions are starting to sour (less oxygen and nutrients) which could challenge salmon survival.

Current snowpack accumulation throughout the Columbia Basin:

  • Upper Columbia: 90 – 150% of normal
  • Washington Cascades: 90 – 125% of normal
  • Oregon Cascades: 50 – 110% of normal
  • Lower Snake and Clearwater: 90 – 110% of normal
  • Southern Idaho: 75 – 110% of normal.

Current snow levels are about 3,000 feet.

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