Nov 292019

Most people think the desert is a place that’s always hot and the sun shines all the time. That’s true much of the time, but when the desert weather deviates from the hot and sunny norm, it can be quite spectacular and somewhat dangerous. After a couple days of great kayak fishing, we’ve run into some of this non-hot and sunny weather. There have been a series of storm cells moving across the desert. Near the storm cells is heavy rain and strong wind, otherwise, there may be a stray shower or two. This thunderstorm was rolling across the desert about twenty miles from here. Moving from NE to SW, right to left in the photo, the rain at the edge of the storm cell was gobbling up the rainbow in front of the storm as it moved across the flat desert.

Early winter thunderstorm moves across the Colorado River basin in the Arizona desert

Even though the storms may be in the distance, enough rain can fall to cause flash flooding that rages through normally dry desert arroyos twenty or fifty miles away where no rain is falling. These flash floods move quickly through the arroyos and can be dangerous should you or your vehicle be in one. If you can see the storms, nearby arroyos can flood.

Desert thunderstorms and dry arroyos prone to flash flooding

After a few days of storms and flooding, we weren’t sure what to expect on a somewhat calm day following the storms. By the moonlight shining through the early morning scattered clouds, we could see the water level in the river was very high and the water level at the launch ramp was the highest I’d ever seen it. We paddled out into a river that looked completely different because of the high water level. As the sun came up, we started to see the effects of days of desert storms.

Colorado River sunrise after days of desert thunderstorms and flash flooding

The river was as high as I’d ever seen it. Local fishermen also commented that this was as high as they’d seen as well. The thick and tall reeds and bushes that line the river banks that are normally five or six feet overhead, were now at eye level on the kayak. Drain pipes, usually five or six feet overhead, were underwater. The usually placid section of river had a fair current running. The water was brown, foamy and filled with floating debris washed into the river by desert flash flooding.

The fishing wasn’t bad and it wasn’t great. Given the water conditions, I felt fortunate to catch a few bass.

Kayak fishing for largemouth bass on a near flood stage Colorado River with

The bass weren’t all that big, but it was worth getting out on the river to see how much different things are at extreme high river water levels.

Colorado River largemouth bass caught by kayak fisherman Ron Barbish

Landing the kayaks was a breeze considering the launch ramp was almost under water and the parking lot a part of the Colorado River. It will be a different story in the days ahead with the receding water leaving a swath of gooey mud on both sides of the river.

Kayak launch on a high water Colorado River

The weather is unsettled and there is more rain in the forecast. We are hoping the weather will straighten up and the river will calm down and clear up. We’ll see what happens so check back soon.

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