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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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

1 Weekday

2 Weekend

1 = Sleep late and fish wherever

10 = Very crowded, get up early

Up-River Summary

If you do not follow Lees Ferry Anglers on Facebook, you should.  We make several posts each week about current conditions at Lees Ferry.

Fall has arrived in northern Arizona and so has near perfect weather. Water flows have dropped – as they do every fall – after being high all summer for maximum electrical generation.

The new flows arrived September 1 and are scheduled to continue through November. These flows are perfect for wading and the water has been slowly rising throughout the day, making for great fishing conditions. Flows on the weekends, as always, are lower than the weekday with the water rising much more slowly. There are numerous locations that are now accessible we have not been able to access for several months; wading is very easy and super effective. The fish are sitting in shallow water with a lot of sight casting available. With the water lower, the fish tend to be a bit more skittish so be careful of where you place the fly and careful not to scare them while wading. Smaller midges (18s and 20s) on dry-dropper rigs are great for getting to these shallow water fish. For fish that are in deeper water, try swinging streamers or traditional nymphing with an indicator. Scuds, glow bugs, San Juan worms, and midges are all working well with the heavier nymph rigs. Remember, with the slower water these fish get another second or two to check out your fly … so smaller flies and smaller tippet sizes are not a bad idea.

The fish are looking very healthy and their condition is outstanding. 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.

Spin fishing up-river is always an effective way to fish the Ferry. Drifting from a boat, 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 glow bugs and plastic worms. Rig with ½ ounce of lead, a swivel, a couple feet of tippet and bounce the lead so your lure stays just off the bottom.
As for the temperatures at the Ferry; the mornings are beginning to cool off and the days are warm. It’s jacket weather in the morning and as the sun gets up you’ll shed your jacket into a lightweight long-sleeved sun shirt. Boat traffic is moderate with more on the weekends. Fishing is great and so is the weather … come see us!

The rumble coming out of Washington DC is that there will not be a government shutdown in October – good news for us and all the National Parks. During the last shutdown, however, Lees Ferry did remain open with no government services which is the way it should be.  It costs more to shut Lees Ferry down than it does to keep it open.

There is enough sediment that flowed from the Paria River this summer to trigger an HFE (artificial flood) in November. It is currently being reviewed as to whether this will occur or not. We are really pushing for them to defer the flood until various factors are considered. You are probably aware that we think that these fall floods make little sense.  This is not a normal time 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 HFE’s are to continue, it would make much more sense that they occur in the spring, a natural timing for floods to occur and could potentially provide some benefits to the river resources.

Bug Flows began May 1. This is great news for the river!

The Department of the Interior implemented experimental Macroinvertebrate Production Flows (Bug Flows) at Glen Canyon Dam May 1. These flows continued through August 31. Early indications are that the bug flows were a success with the largest hatches of midges ever recorded at Lees Ferry. Bug Flows consist of steady weekend releases from Glen Canyon Dam that provide favorable conditions for insects to lay eggs along the Colorado River margins and slightly higher fluctuating releases during the weekdays designed to prevent the eggs from drying out. This experiment is expected to have positive benefits to the food base of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems below Glen Canyon Dam. The Bug Flow experiment is expected to provide resource benefits in the near term and will also provide scientific information to be used in future decision making. The Bug Flow experiment will satisfy the Department’s goal to ensure effective and coordinated implementation of important research that the Department is undertaking through the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program.

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:

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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. We are excited about the winter season and have some great “black board” specials planned. Patio dining is available. (Enclosed in the winter months)

Walk-In Summary

Walk-in rating: 7

The walk in is fishing great, as it has been all year. With the lower water, you can access much of boulder field all the way down to the Paria with ease. The deeper water straight across from the big rock has been producing the best. With the low water, you don’t have to get out very far and the drift is nice and slow. The fish are stacked in those deep pockets from the big rock down to the straight away. The straight away has also been fishing well, as long as you can roll cast (due to the trees right on the bank). Traditional nymphing in these two spots has been very affective. San Juan worms and midges have been the go-to flies. When the water rises, olive and black wooly buggers have been working well from the riffle down to the confluence of the Paria River. These new flows have really turned the fish on down at the walk-in.

Spin Fishing Summary.

Spin Fishing rating: 5 to 6

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!

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. This is the time of year that the fish are really starting to key in on glo-bugs (egg patterns), which is due to the fish beginning to spawn. The key success is getting the fly to the bottom and drifting along the bottom of the river in a long dead-drift. The best way to do this is from a boat. Spin fishing in the higher water months of December and January is always good.

Dam Operations

August 30, 2018


The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam for September 2018 will be 671,000 acre-feet.  Hourly and daily average releases from Glen Canyon Dam for September 2018 will be scheduled through Western Area Power Administration to be consistent with the Glen Canyon Dam, Record of Decision (dated December 2016) and to also achieve, as nearly as is practicable, this monthly volume.

Hourly releases during weekdays in September 2018 will fluctuate from a low of approximately 7,600 cfs during the early morning hours to a high of 13,645 cfs during the afternoon and evening hours.  On weekend days in September 2018, releases will fluctuate from a low of approximately 7,600 cfs during the early morning hours to a high of 12,723 during the afternoon and evening hours.

The anticipated release volume for October 2018 is 625,000 kaf.  This will be confirmed in a subsequent directive toward the end of September.

Most current reservoir elevation, content, inflow and release, click: Lake Powell Data.
Most current reservoir elevation projections, click: Lake Powell Elevation Projections.
2017 progression of snowpack above Lake Powell, click: Lake Powell Snow Chart.
Current inflow forecast relative to past inflows, click: Lake Powell Inflow Forecast.


The operating tier for water year 2018 was established in August 2017 as the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier, with an initial water year release volume of 8.23 maf and the potential for an April 2018 adjustment to equalization or balancing releases.  Based on the current forecast, an April adjustment to balancing is projected to occur and Lake Powell is currently projected to release 9.0 maf in water year 2018.  This projection will be updated each month throughout the water year.  Reclamation will schedule operations at Glen Canyon Dam to achieve as practicably as possible the appropriate total annual release volume by September 30, 2018.

In December 2018, the release volume will be approximately 740 kaf, with fluctuations anticipated between about 7,300 cfs in the nighttime to about 14,000 cfs in the daytime and consistent with the revised Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (27-Sep-2017) (https://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/studies/GCOC.pdf).  The anticipated release volume for January is 860 kaf with daily fluctuations between approximately 9,100 cfs and 16,850 cfs.  The expected release for February is 730 kaf with daily fluctuations between approximately 10,500 cfs and 13,900 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 27 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.

The forecast for water year 2018 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, issued on December 1, 2017, by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume next year will be 7.64 maf (71% of average).  There is significant uncertainty regarding next season’s snow pack development and resulting runoff into Lake Powell.  The forecast ranges from a minimum probable of 7.0 maf (65%) to a maximum probable of 17.5 maf (162%).  There is a 10% chance that inflows could be higher than the current maximum probable forecast and a 10% chance that inflows could be lower than the minimum probable forecast.

Based on the current forecast, the December 24-Month Study projects Lake Powell elevation will end water year 2018 near 3,614 feet with approximately 13.2 maf in storage (54% capacity).  Note that projections of elevation and storage for water year 2018 have significant uncertainty at this point in the season.  Projections of elevation and storage using the minimum and maximum probable inflow forecast are 3,612 feet (12.9 maf, 53% capacity) and 3,654 feet (17.7 maf, 73% 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 2018 is projected to be 9.0 maf under the minimum and most probable inflow scenarios and 13.56 maf under the maximum probable inflow scenario.  There is a chance that inflows could be higher or lower, potentially resulting in releases greater than 13.56 maf or as low as 8.23 maf in water year 2018.

The Upper Colorado River Basin regularly experiences significant year to year hydrologic variability.  During the 18-year period 2000 to 2017, 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 18 years.  The period 2000-2017 is the lowest 18-year period since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, with an average unregulated inflow of 8.76 maf, or 81% 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 2000-2017 period has ranged from a low of 2.64 maf (24% of average) in water year 2002 to a high of 15.97 maf (147% of average) in water year 2011.  In water year 2017 unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell was 11.9 maf (110% of average), the fourth year to be above average.  Under the current most probable forecast, the total water year 2018 unregulated inflow to Lake Powell is projected to be 7.64 maf (71% of average).

At the beginning of water year 2018, total system storage in the Colorado River Basin was 32.9 maf (55% of 59.6 maf total system capacity).  This is an increase of 2.7 maf over the total storage at the beginning of water year 2017 when total system storage was 30.2 maf (51%).  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% of capacity at the beginning of 2000 to a low of 50% of capacity at the beginning of water year 2005.  One wet year can significantly increase total system reservoir storage, just as persistent dry years can draw down the system storage.  Based on current inflow forecasts, the current projected end of water year total Colorado Basin reservoir storage for water year 2018 is approximately 30.7 maf (52% of total system capacity). The actual end of water year 2018 system storage may vary from this projection, primarily due to uncertainty regarding this season’s runoff and reservoir inflow.  Based on the October minimum and maximum probable inflow forecasts and modeling, the range of end of water year 2018 total system capacity is approximately 30.06 maf (50%) to 35.47 maf (59%), respectively.

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