Dam Operations

River Report

Everything you need to know from our guides to your lines. Get a heads up of how the mighty Colorado will treat you before you head out.

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May 17 2019

Fishing Report

Upriver Report

Walk-In Report

Spin Report

1 = Go Elsewhere

10 = Get Here Now!

Crowd Report

Upriver Crowd

2 Weekday

3 Weekend

Walk-In Crowd

2 Weekday

3 Weekend

1 = Sleep late and fish wherever

10 = Very crowded, get up early

Up-River Summary


The midge hatches are exploding and on warm clear days we are seeing epic hatches. The fish have moved into the shallows and riffles to feed on the emerging midges. The key is to be here when the weather is good (warm and sunny) as cooler days and cloud cover suppress the midge hatches and the fish are not near as active as they are during good weather. The water flow conditions are perfect with low steady water (bug flows*) on the weekends and very slow rising water on the weekdays. Midge fishing currently is just about as good as it gets, especially if you enjoy sight casting to sub surface feeding fish. The fish can be very selective, and at times it can be frustrating to see countless fish in less than a foot of water, chowing down in a feeding frenzy while ignoring your flies. This is where it gets fun though…trying different flies until you find the right one. I always start big, size #18 and work down and will often find that a size #22 or #24 will be the ticket.

Experimental “bug flows” began on May 1 and will continue through the summer. This means that the flows on Saturday and Sunday will be steady low flows with no rise. Details below *.

The summer fishing outlook is good. This is when the flows move the large food items (scuds and worms), pitch in the cicadas in early July and it is usually fishing nirvana here at the Ferry.

The fish have been spawning in deeper runs this spring with no shallow water spawning anywhere on the river. This is very good for survival of the trout eggs and fry as they are not left high and dry by fluctuating water flows. While it has peaked for the year, expect to see some sporadic spawning into June.
The fish are looking healthy and their condition is good. In addition, the overall average size of the trout is larger than we have seen in a couple of years. Trout numbers have also increased compared to the past two years and we are seeing all sizes of fish from little guys to some slabs … looking forward to another great year at the Ferry.

Arizona Game and Fish Department recently stocked 1,000 rainbows in the lower stretch of Lees Ferry. This is the first time trout have been stocked here since 1996. This is a really big deal since the political environment has prevented any stocking of fish in the river for more than 20 years. By conducting this stocking, the precedent has been set that sport fish are indeed a priority and if the need should arise, there can be a rapid response to introduce fish into the river. Thousands of hours of diligent work by countless individuals working behind the scenes have brought this change in management to fruition … we will be forever grateful for your efforts. This is an experimental stocking …the fish are triploids, which means they are sterile. Triploids generally grow larger and faster than wild trout since they do not spawn; it will be very interesting to see how they do.

Beginning this spring, Lees Ferry Anglers is embarking on a new service. We will be “back-hauling” personal flotation boats, passengers and gear up-river from Lees Ferry to wherever you want to go, even just below the dam. Our new boat dedicated to this service was designed for carrying kayaks, canoes and up to 6 passengers with lots of gear. In the past, you had to schedule your departure around the operations of the guide or service and often had to launch late in the day. This new boat is dedicated to transportation only, so we will coordinate with your schedule and be operating throughout the day with multiple departure times. You can do a day float, a partial day float, or camp along the river on a multiple day float. Call the shop to schedule your trip. We also rent kayaks!

Current snowpack conditions are highly favorable and exceed 160% of normal. This is a banner snowpack to make up for the dismal runoff last season. The El Nino generally brings large snow pack to the Rockies and the Lake Powell drainage. Currently, Lake Powell is 120-feet below full pool which is almost 50-feet below where it was a year ago on this date. There is currently a 60% chance that El Nino could continue through next winter which could mean another year of epic snows for the Rockies and perhaps alleviate the ongoing decline in Lake Powell and Lake Meade. Another important consideration is that this year’s large inflow into Powell will stir up tons of nutrients which will be good for the river for several years to come.

Bug Flows*
Implemented at Glen Canyon Dam beginning May 1 through August 31, 2019.
Bug Flows consist of steady weekend releases from Glen Canyon Dam and normal fluctuating releases during the weekdays. The steady weekend flows are expected to provide favorable conditions for aquatic insects to lay eggs along the Colorado River downstream of Glen Canyon Dam, while the minimum flows on weekdays are designed to be similar to flows on the weekends. This flow regime would decrease the amount of stage change in the river on the weekends, thus preventing the insect eggs that are laid along the river margins from drying out. Technical experts at the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC) and Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) have coordinated the design of the recommended experiment to optimize the benefits for insects throughout the Canyon while minimizing negative impacts to hydropower. This experiment is expected to have positive benefits to the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in Glen, Marble, and Grand Canyons. The purpose of the experimental flow is to test the effectiveness of Bug Flows for improving insect production and to increase the availability of food for desired fish species including the endangered humpback chub (Gila cypha) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), an important sportfish, as well as terrestrial wildlife like birds and bats.

For each month of the experimental period (May through August), weekend low, steady releases will be maintained at 750 cfs greater than the weekday low for that month. Normal fluctuating releases will be maintained during the weekdays. The LTEMP maximum ramp rates (4,000 cfs
per hour when increasing and 2,500 cfs per hour when ramping down) will be adhered to throughout the experiment, as will the maximum daily fluctuations (9 times the monthly release volume in May; and 10 times the monthly release volume in June through August). The daily fluctuating range is not to exceed 8,000 cfs. In addition, minimum releases of 5,000 cfs during the nighttime and 8,000 cfs during the daytime will be maintained.

There was enough sediment that flowed from the Paria River last summer to trigger an HFE (artificial flood) in November. This event has come and gone and the fish have begun to settle into normal behavior. You are probably aware that we think that these fall floods make little sense. This is not a normal time of year for a flood to occur! These fall floods scour the vegetation and aquatic food base at a time when the river is entering winter; the sun lays over to the south with very little sunlight entering the canyon, so any photosynthesis is delayed until the spring. If these HFEs are to continue, it would make much more sense to occur in the spring, a natural timing for floods and could potentially provide some benefits to the river resources.
Quagga mussels have become very well established in Lake Powell and we are now seeing them in the river below the dam. So far, there has not been a major infestation and there is some thought by experts that they will not become very well established in the river due to the current. Be aware and remember to dry waders and boots before using them in any other body of water. Also, all private boats should drain all water from the boat and live-wells as soon as you exit the river. We all need to do our part to limit the transport of this and all invasive species.

For details on Lake Powell conditions and snow-pack, go here:

For a real-time graphic view of water releases and ramp rates go here:

Cliff Dwellers Lodge has been proudly serving guests for more than 60 years!
Our lodge has rooms with cable TV (20 channels), in-room coffee and refrigerators, and the basic amenities. Choices of rooms are ONE king-size bed, TWO doubles and TWO queen-size beds and one 2-bedroom unit. Also, our group unit we call the HOUSE, sleeps six with two baths, dining area, kitchen, patio with a view, and cable TV. Rates vary with season.

As for dining, we have some great blackboard specials planned along with our regular menu. Patio dining is available.

Walk-In Summary

Walk-in rating: 6 to 7

We have been hearing some great reports from the walk-in area. The same epic midge hatches that we are seeing upriver are also happening in the walk-in. With the low water, you don’t have to get out very far and the drift is nice and steady. The fish are stacked in those deeper pockets from the big rock down to the straight away. The boulder field above the big rock is often the best midging water with either a dry and dropper rig or our double tiny rig with two bead-head midges or a bead-head with a size #20 or smaller midge pupae. Don’ waste your time with any tippet larger than 6 or 7 X and a perfect dead drift is critical to success. When the water rises on the weekdays, olive and black wooly buggers have been working well from the riffle down to the confluence of the Paria River. Keep in mind that the water flows are low and steady on the weekends and the fishing will likely be better in the lower flows.

Spin Fishing Summary.

Spin Fishing rating: 5 to 6

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 rainbow trout 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
Current Status
Last Updated: May 10, 2019
The Department of the Interior is conducting the third 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, bug flows, trout management flows, and low summer flows. Collaborative discussions among technical experts resulted in a decision to begin this first experiment on May 1 and continue through August 31, 2019. 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 four inches of typical weekday low water levels. It is unlikely casual recreational river users will notice the changes in water 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.

The unregulated inflow in April was 1.24 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (118 percent of average). April precipitation in the Upper Colorado Basin was 105 percent of average. The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in April was 720 kaf. The end of April elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3,571.12 feet (128.88 feet from full pool) 9.20 maf (38 percent of full capacity).

To view the most current reservoir elevation projections, click on: Lake Powell Elevation Projections.
To view the 2019 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.
To view the hourly fluctions under the Bug Flow Experiment, click on May Bug Flow Experiment Hourly Releases.

Current Operations
The operating tier for water year 2019 was established in August 2018 as the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier. As described in the Interim Guidelines, under balancing, the contents of Lake Powell and Lake Mead are to be balanced by the end of the water year, but not more than 9.0 maf and not less than 8.23 maf is to be released from Lake Powell. Under this Tier the initial annual water year release volume is 8.23 maf, and the April 2019 24-Month Study projects the end of water year elevation at Lake Powell to be above 3,575 feet, and the end of water year elevation at Lake Mead to be below 1,075 feet. Lake Powell operations will shift to balancing releases for the remainder of water year 2019. Lake Powell is currently projected to release 9.0 maf in water year 2019; and this projection will be updated each month throughout the remainder of the water year.
In May, the release volume will be approximately 720 kaf, with fluctuations anticipated between about 10,095 cfs in the nighttime to about 15,077 cfs and consistent with the Glen Canyon Dam, Record of Decision on LTEMP (dated December, 2016). The anticipated release volume for June is 765 kaf with fluctuations anticipated between about 9,490 cfs in the nighttime to about 17,140 cfs.
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 1,200 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 28 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 2019 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, issued on May 2, 2019, by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume next year will be 12.07 maf (111 percent of average). There is significant uncertainty regarding next season’s snow pack development and resulting runoff into Lake Powell. Reclamation updates its minimum and maximum projections four times a year: January, April, August and October. The April forecast ranges from a minimum probable of 9.68 maf (89 percent of average) to a maximum probable of 15.26 maf (141 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, the May 24-Month Study projects Lake Powell elevation will end water year 2019 near 3,610.33 feet with approximately 12.76 maf in storage (54 percent of capacity). Note that projections of elevation and storage for water year 2019 have significant uncertainty at this point in the season. Projections of end of water year 2019 elevation and storage using the minimum and maximum probable inflow forecast from April 2019 are 3,590.25 feet (10.84 maf, 46 percent of capacity) and 3,632.38 feet (15.12 maf, 65 percent of capacity), respectively. Under these scenarios, there is a 10 percent chance that inflows will be higher, resulting in higher elevation and storage, and 10 percent chance that inflows will be lower, resulting in lower elevation and storage. The annual release volume from Lake Powell during water year 2019 is projected to be 9.0 maf under the May most probable scenario, and 9.0 maf under the maximum and minimum probable inflow scenarios.
Upper Colorado River Basin Hydrology
The Upper Colorado River Basin regularly experiences significant year to year hydrologic variability. During the 19-year period 2000 to 2018, 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 4 out of the past 19 years. The period 2000-2018 is the lowest 19-year period since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, with an average unregulated inflow of 8.54 maf, or 79 percent of the 30-year average (1981-2010). (For comparison, the 1981-2010 total water year average is 10.83 maf.) The unregulated inflow during the 2000-2018 period has ranged from a low of 2.64 maf (24 percent of average) in water year 2002 to a high of 15.97 maf (147 percent of average) in water year 2011. In water year 2018 unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell was 4.6 maf (43 percent of average), the third driest year on record above 2002 and 1977. Under the current most probable forecast, the total water year 2019 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell is projected to be 12.07 maf (111 percent of average).
At the beginning of water year 2019, total system storage in the Colorado River Basin was 28.01 maf (47 percent of 59.6 maf total system capacity). This is a decrease of 4.91 maf over the total storage at the beginning of water year 2018 when total system storage was 32.92 maf (55 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 47 percent of capacity at the beginning of water year 2019. Based on current inflow forecasts, the current projected end of water year total Colorado Basin reservoir storage for water year 2019 is approximately 30.74 maf (51 percent of total system capacity). The actual end of water year 2019 system storage may vary from this projection, primarily due to uncertainty regarding this season’s runoff and reservoir inflow.

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