Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Minor Flooding At the Ranch

Over Mother's Day weekend, about six in the evening, my garden ditch abruptly began to rise. It had been running strong all day with runoff from the northwestern hillsides. When we realized the water flow might flood the driveway, gardens, lawns, and propane tank, Pete thought he should head up and check the main headgate to the Elk River to see if it had inadvertently been left open last fall. So, he hopped on Dudley, his favorite quarter-horse, and rode up to check it out. Once there, he found the gate appropriately shut, but the northern meadows flooded with run-off from our neighbor's draw. There hadn't been this much water since 1984 when flooding silted in a portion of the land owner's eastern meadow.

Last year brought us the highest water we've ever seen here at the ranch. The Elk River came close to the edge of our arena delivering a thirty-foot log to its resting place next to the outside fence. The melt and drainage out of the arena this year has already displaced some arena sand out the south end. Our main concern this year, with record level flooding predicted, is that the Elk River will wash out the arena entirely and that it may come up high enough to damage our main equipment shed. We have neighbors in lower lying areas who are at more risk than we are. They have sandbagged in preparation of both warmer weather and continuous precipitation.

This is a spring unlike any we've ever seen. We know places like eastern Colorado and the desert southwest desperately need moisture and a water supply to grow food crops, but the extreme nature of our weather is concerning. It certainly makes it difficult to begin with spring ranching chores and more importantly, gives rise to questions about the consequences of long-term seasonal climate change.