Dam Operations

River Report

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September 11, 2022

Fishing Report

Upriver Report

Walk-In Report

Spin Report

1 = Go Elsewhere

10 = Get Here Now!

Crowd Report

Upriver Crowd

1 Weekday

3 Weekend

Walk-In Crowd

1 Weekday

3 Weekend

1 = Sleep late and fish wherever

10 = Very crowded, get up early

Up-River Summary

Lees Ferry Fishing Report – September 11, 2022

          To say the least, it’s been an interesting summer at Lees Ferry. I think everyone is aware of the extreme low levels in Lake Powell. Currently, the lake elevation is 3,530 feet … an historic low was set this April when the lake plunged to 3,522 feet.  Spring runoff then brought the lake up to 3,540 feet, which was not enough.

          As the lake level receded, water temperatures released from Glen Canyon Dam have increased slowly all summer. The penstocks that pull the water into the generators at the dam are at an elevation of 3,470 feet, which means that the lake surface water level is only 60 feet above these withdrawal tubes. To put this into perspective, when the lake is full at a 3,700 foot elevation, there is 230 foot difference between the surface and the penstocks; at this water level, the penstocks stay cold on a year-round basis.

          Current water temperatures measured at Lees Ferry have been 68- to 70- degrees. (You can view real time water temps @ www.leesferry.com).  Last year at this time it was 60 degrees. Median temperature over the years has been about 53 degrees. Previously, the warmest that I had seen was in 2004-2005 when river temps reached 64 degrees and Lake Powell was at 3,550 feet, or near the current levels.

          It is important to understand that rainbow trout can do fine at 70 degrees, whereas temperatures around 77 degrees can become lethal. There is another important factor that comes into play: as the water temperatures increase, warmer water holds less dissolved oxygen (DO2). As water temps rise with less DO2, rainbow trout can become stressed.

         All summer, the fish showed no signs of stress despite the warmer than normal river temperatures. The fish were actively feeding, fishing was great, and all the fish appeared to be in superb condition. Despite this, we were conscientious about keeping the fish in the water to release them and made sure they were revived and strong before they swam away.

          Recently, very low levels of DO2 have been reported at the dam. We have had this happen several times in years past and it had no serious impact on the trout below the dam. However, we did not have these warm of temps before.  We are in uncharted territory as to what the future holds. Nothing in years-past can be used to determine what is going to occur as the fall progresses. Normally, the river temperatures do not cool until December, when Lake Powell turns over. However, with only 60 feet of water between the surface and penstocks, cooler air temperatures could possibly hasten the water flowing from the dam to cool off sooner than in years past.

          On a very positive note: This area returned to a more normal weather pattern this summer and fall with strong monsoon rains.  2018 through Jan., 2020 was an extreme drought with only two inches of rain recorded at my house. 2021 was 6 inches and we have had 3 inches so far with more expected in the coming days. The valley here is green and lush with knee-high grass … let’s hope this trend continues.

          The Lees Ferry trout fishery has proven itself resilient many times and despite predictions of doom and gloom, has reemerged and flourished. We all can hope that the water in the Lake Powell cools quickly and that the DO2 levels increase. Next, we need a very large snowpack in the Rocky Mountains for the lake to fill again. I mentioned 2004-2005 and the low lake water and warmer river temps … the winter of 2005 was a wet one and the lake rose more than 50 feet to over 3,600.  That was followed by several good years of snowpack and in 2011, Lake Powell was at 3,660 or only 40 feet from being full.

          So … where do we go from here? Mother Nature holds a hand full of trump cards and if she decides to play one, there’s not a single thing that anyone can do to alter the outcome. This time, her card was in the form of a long and extended drought. She might have another card to play.  Perhaps it takes the form of the biggest snowstorm in a thousand years … only time will tell.




Walk-In Summary

Walk-in rating: 6

According to a regular who fishes the walk-in this area has been consistently good fishing with decent numbers of fish hooked and landed. The best time of day is to be there early so that you catch the rising water and avoid the heat of day. Once the water peaks in the afternoon the fishing slows down. Streamers on a sinking line have been working as have heavy nymph rigs fished in the deeper water. Try a scud below a San Juan worm with plenty of shot to get it deep.

Spin Fishing Summary.

Spin fishing up-river is an effective way to fish the Ferry. The best recent fishing has been to drift glo-bugs from a boat, making sure they are bouncing along the bottom. Casting Panther Martins, Castmasters, Z-Rays (if you can find them), and Mepps spinners toward the bank is a great method in the slower, deeper water. In the shallower water (3- to 15-feet) try drifting plastic worms. Rig with ¼- ounce of lead, swivel, a couple feet of tippet and bounce the lead so your lure stays just off the bottom.

Spin fishing the walk-in is best in the deeper water due to all the rocks. From the top of the boulder field all the way up to half a mile past the boat landing is good. Gold ¼ ounce Castmasters and ¼ ounce Panther Martins are the best. Using the quarter ounce lures you can really cast them out for some distance and cover a lot of water. Small, sinking Rapalas in both rainbow trout color and original have also been working well. Cast out, let them sink for a few seconds then retrieve them at a steady speed (and maybe even give it a little twitch here and there) to trigger a strike. When spin fishing, you need light line (4 pound test); you can cast further and the fish cannot see it. Remember to set your drag light!


Dam Operations

Current Status

Last Updated: June 15, 2022


The Bureau of Reclamation announced on May 3, 2022, two separate urgent drought response actions that will help prop up Lake Powell by nearly 1 million acre-feet (maf) of water over the next 12 months (May 2022 through April 2023). To protect Lake Powell, more water will flow into the lake from upstream reservoirs and less water will be released downstream:

    • Under a Drought Contingency Plan adopted in 2019, approximately 500 thousand acre-feet (kaf) of water will come from Flaming Gorge Reservoir, located approximately 455 river miles upstream of Lake Powell.
  • Another 480 kaf will be left in Lake Powell by reducing Glen Canyon Dam’s annual release volume from 7.48 maf to 7.0 maf, as outlined in the 2007 Interim Guidelines that control operations of Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam.

The plan can be found at the following website: https://www.usbr.gov/dcp/droa.html.

For additional information, see the following news release: https://www.usbr.gov/newsroom/#/news-release/4196.

The Department of the Interior is conducting the fifth experimental flow at Glen Canyon Dam since implementing its Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan (LTEMP). The goal is to provide enhanced habitat for the lifecycle of aquatic insects that are the primary food source for fish in the Colorado River.

Experiments under LTEMP consist of four different flow regimes: high flows, macroinvertebrate flows (bug flows), trout management flows, and low summer flows. Collaborative discussions among technical experts resulted in a decision to begin this fourth consecutive year of the bug flow experiment on May 1 and continue through August 31, 2022. It will slightly modify the schedule and flow rates of water releases from Lake Powell through Glen Canyon Dam, Arizona. The normally scheduled monthly and weekly release volumes will not be affected.

Flows during the experiment will include steady weekend water releases with routine hydropower production flows on weekdays that include normal hourly changes in release rates. Those steady weekend flows are expected to provide favorable conditions for aquatic insects to lay and cement their eggs to rocks, vegetation, and other materials near the river’s edge. Steady weekend flows will be relatively low, within two inches of typical weekday low water levels. It is unlikely casual recreational river users will notice the changes in water levels. Hourly releases in June 2022 will fluctuate from a low of approximately 8,600 cfs during the early morning hours to a high of 14,582 cfs during the afternoon and evening hours. On weekend days in June 2022, releases will be steady near 9,350 cfs. The Glen Canyon Dam Implementation Team will closely monitor the condition of resources during the experiment and may terminate implementation at any time if unanticipated negative impacts are observed or are likely to occur due to ongoing drought and low lake levels.

Insects expected to benefit from this experiment are an important food source for many species of fish, birds, and bats in the canyon. Beyond expected resource benefits, this experiment will also provide scientific information that will be used in future decision making. Although every effort will be made to match the design of the experiment described above, Reclamation will continue to exercise the operational flexibility described in the LTEMP ROD. Additional information can be found on the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management website here: https://www.usbr.gov/uc/progact/amp/ltemp.html

Macroinvertebrate Release Information
Month  Release Volume (af)  Maximum Daily Fluctuation (cfs)  Weekday Maximum (cfs)  Weekday Minimum (cfs)  Weekend Release (cfs) 
May  599,000  5,400  13,990  6,350  9,350 
June  598,000  5,982  14,582  8,600  9,350 
July  673,000  6,732  15,332  8,600  9,350 
August  717,000  7,172  15,772  8,600  9,350 

The unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell during May was 1,381,500 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (67 percent of average). The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in May was 598 kaf. The end of May elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3,531.69 feet (168 feet from full pool) and 6.34 million acre-feet (maf) (26 percent of live capacity), respectively.


To view the most current reservoir elevation projections, click on: Lake Powell Elevation Projections.
To view the most current monthly release projections, click on: Lake Powell Release Projections.
To view the 2022 progession of snowpack above Lake Powell, click on Lake Powell Snow Chart.
To view the current inflow forecast relative to past inflows, click on Lake Powell Inflow Forecast.


Current Operations

The operating tier for water year 2022 (October 2021 through September 2022) was established in August 2021 as the Mid-Elevation Release Tier consistent with Section 6.C.1 of the Interim Guidelines. The August 2021 24-Month study projected the January 1, 2022, Lake Powell elevation to be less than 3,575 feet and at or above 3,525 feet and the Lake Mead elevation to be at or above 1,025 feet. As previously mentioned, in light of the prolonged drought, low runoff conditions, and depleted storage at Lake Powell, the Department of the Interior implemented an action under Sections 6 and 7.D of the 2007 Interim Guidelines specifically reducing the Glen Canyon Dam annual releases to 7.0 maf in water year 2022.

As previously mentioned, in light of the prolonged drought, low runoff conditions, and depleted storage at Lake Powell, the Department of the Interior implemented an action under Sections 6 and 7.D of the 2007 Interim Guidelines specifically reducing the Glen Canyon Dam annual releases to 7.0 maf in water year 2022.

In addition to daily scheduled fluctuations for power generation, the instantaneous releases from Glen Canyon Dam may also fluctuate to provide 40 megawatts (MW) of system regulation. These instantaneous release adjustments stabilize the electrical generation and transmission system and translate to a range of about 1,100 cfs above or below the hourly scheduled release rate. Under system normal conditions, fluctuations for regulation are typically short lived and generally balance out over the hour with minimal or no noticeable impacts on downstream river flow conditions.

Releases from Glen Canyon Dam can also fluctuate beyond scheduled releases when called upon to respond to unscheduled power outages or power system emergencies. Depending on the severity of the system emergency, the response from Glen Canyon Dam can be significant, within the full range of the operating capacity of the power plant for as long as is necessary to maintain balance in the transmission system. Glen Canyon Dam currently maintains 30 mw (approximately 800 cfs) of generation capacity in reserve in order to respond to a system emergency even when generation rates are already high. System emergencies occur fairly infrequently and typically require small responses from Glen Canyon Dam. However, these responses can have a noticeable impact on the river downstream of Glen Canyon Dam.

Inflow Forecasts and Model Projections

The forecast for water year 2022 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, issued on June 3, 2022, by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume this year will be 5.61 maf (58 percent of average).

In addition to the June 2022 24-Month Study based on the Most Probable inflow scenario, and in accordance with the Drought Response Operational Agreement (DROA)), Reclamation has conducted model runs in June to determine a possible range of reservoir elevations under probable most, maximum and minimum inflow scenarios. The probable minimum and probable maximum model runs are conducted simultaneously in January, April, August, and October, or when necessary to incorporate changing conditions. The probable minimum inflow scenario reflects a dry hydrologic condition which statistically would be exceeded 90 percent of the time. The most probable inflow scenario reflects a median hydrologic condition which statistically would be exceeded 50 percent of the time. The probable maximum inflow scenario reflects a wet hydrologic condition which statistically would be exceeded 10 percent of the time. There is approximately an 80 percent probability that a future elevation will fall inside the range of the minimum and maximum inflow scenarios. Additionally, there are possible inflow scenarios that would result in reservoir elevations falling outside the ranges indicated in these reports.

The DROA coordination will continue until either (i) the minimum probable projected elevation remains above 3,525 feet for 24 months or (ii) the process moves to the next step when the most probable projected elevation indicates Powell elevations below 3,525 feet and a Drought Response Operations Plan is developed. This 2022 Plan is described above and available for review here: https://www.usbr.gov/dcp/droa.html.

The June forecast for water year 2022 ranges from a minimum probable of 5.04 maf (52 percent of average) to a maximum probable of 6.61 maf (69 percent of average) with the most probable forecast for water year 2022 of 5.61 maf (58 percent of average). There is a 10 percent chance that inflows could be higher than the current maximum probable forecast and a 10 percent chance that inflows could be lower than the minimum probable forecast.

Based on the current forecast of 5.61 maf unregulated inflow for water year 2022, the June 24-Month Study projects Lake Powell elevation will end water year 2022 near 3525.79 feet with approximately 5.98 maf in storage (25 percent of capacity). Note that projections of elevation and storage for water year 2022 have significant uncertainty at this point in the season. Projections of end of water year 2022 elevation using the minimum and maximum inflow forecast results from the June 2022 model run are 3,521.64 feet and 3,534.05 feet, respectively. The annual release volume from Lake Powell during water year 2022 will be 7.0 maf as determined under Section 6.C.1 and 7.D of the Interim Guidelines as determined by the Department of the Interior.

Upper Colorado River Basin Hydrology

Upper Colorado River Basin regularly experiences significant year to year hydrologic variability. During the 22-year period 2000 to 2021, however, the unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, which is a good measure of hydrologic conditions in the Colorado River Basin, was above average in only 5 out of the past 22 years. The period 2000-2021 is the lowest 22-year period since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, with an average unregulated inflow of 8.46 maf, or 88 percent of the 30-year average (1991-2020). (For comparison, the 1991-2020 total water year average is 9.60 maf.) The unregulated inflow during the 2000-2021 period has ranged from a low of 2.64 maf (28 percent of average) in water year 2002 to a high of 15.97 maf (166 percent of average) in water year 2011. In water year 2021 unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell was 3.50 maf (36 percent of average), the second driest year on record above 2002. Under the current most probable forecast, the total water year 2022 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell is projected to be 5.61 maf (58 percent of average).

At the beginning of water year 2022, total system storage in the Colorado River Basin was 22.80 maf (38 percent of 59.60 maf total system capacity). This is a decrease of 5.97 maf over the total storage at the beginning of water year 2021 when total system storage was 28.77 maf (48 percent of capacity). Since the beginning of water year 2000, total Colorado Basin storage has experienced year to year increases and decreases in response to wet and dry hydrology, ranging from a high of 94 percent of capacity at the beginning of 2000 to the now current level of 38 percent of capacity at the beginning of water year 2022. Based on current inflow forecasts, the current projected end of water year 2022 total Colorado Basin reservoir storage is approximately 19.56 maf (33 percent of total system capacity). The actual end of water year 2022 system storage may vary from this projection, primarily due to uncertainty regarding this season’s runoff and reservoir inflow.