May 26, 2023 |

Photo – Ft Steele Bridge on the North Platte River – Bigfoot99 file photo

The North Platte River is running high as we enter the Memorial Day Weekend. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department advises recreationists that with spring runoff flowing high and fast, caution should be used while recreating near rivers, creeks, and streams.

The state wildlife agency notes that banks are flooding in the Saratoga area.

Many public access areas managed by Game and Fish are experiencing impacts from high water levels headed into the weekend. Outdoor enthusiasts should exercise caution and awareness.

The Foote Public Access Area is experiencing extensive flooding. Campsites there are underwater and will be inaccessible until the waters recede. Public Information Specialist Caroline Rosinski with Game and Fish said the Foote Public Access Area, north of Saratoga, is completely under water.

Game and Fish issued a warning about the Pick Bridge Public Access Area as well. Rosinski said the location was experiencing mild flooding close to the river.

The Pick Bridge PAA is experiencing mild impacts that will continue and possibly worsen throughout the weekend. Recreationists should assume that low-lying areas alongside the North Platte River in the Saratoga area may flood as the river reaches peak spring runoff this weekend.

Recreationists should consider camping locations away from the river. In fact, you may be required to camp on higher ground.

In addition to impacts on state-managed public access areas, the U.S. Forest Service has issued an emergency closure to overnight camping within 1,000 feet of the North Platte River because of debris flow and potential flash flooding. The federal forest lands affected in Wyoming extend from the Colorado state line where the North Platte River flows north into the Medicine Bow National Forest to where it flows out of the Forest boundary near the confluence with Savage Run Creek. This emergency closure is because of the potential for flash floods and debris flows in the area burned by the 2020 Mullen Fire. Rosinski said the Mullen burn scar is prone to dangerous flash floods.

Rosinski said the Forest Service camping ban will remain in effect until an alert is issued saying it has been lifted.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking people to camp as far away from riverbanks as possible. Rosinski said the water level can rise overnight while campers are asleep.

Rafters and other river runners should note that hazards on the North Plate this weekend will include:

  • Debris carried by high water flows, including downed trees, could damage watercraft.
  • Some river hazards may be submerged,
  • Swift water can make landing boats at take-out points challenging and even difficult.
  • Be prepared for both cold water and chilly air temperatures.

Forest visitors are advised that new hazards may exist in recently burned areas, such as the Mullen Fire. If you haven’t floated the river in a while, conditions have changed for the worse in some stretches.

Water flows have the potential to increase quickly, carrying burned debris, ash, and soil in the currents. Debris, log jams, trees, and strainers, may create new obstacles and/or rapids in the river.

Wyoming Game and Fish advises rafters to stay alert, anticipate your route, and be prepared. Wearing protective clothing and carrying extra layers can help protect against cold temperatures. Bringing along a first aid kit and matches in a dry bag is also good practice.

Be alert for changed conditions on routes you may have traveled in past years, stay safe and have fun.

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