Ash and debris flows from the Hayden Pass wildfire burn scar near Coaldale could pose safety risks to Arkansas River anglers and rafters during flash flooding, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The summer 2016 wildfire on the northeast-facing slope of the Sangre de Cristo range about 20 miles southeast of Salida burned nearly 17,000 acres above two Arkansas River tributaries, Hayden Creek and Big Cottonwood Creek. Strong summer thunderstorms and rapid snow melt could send ash from the scorched ground and debris such as fallen trees and loose rocks down the creeks and into the Arkansas River in Coaldale, said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Bill Vogrin.
"It's a phenomenon we're well familiar with in Colorado Springs off the Waldo Canyon scar," Vogrin said. "It rains and it carries that ash, it chokes the creek.
The filthy flow could have particular impact on people who fish the Arkansas. "(Ash) takes out oxygen and food for the fish," Vogrin said. "If they're east of those inlets where the Big Cottonwood and the Hayden hit the Arkansas, they're going to see black water flowing into the river."
Rafters could also be affected. "If you're in a raft and the water is dark, that's not a huge problem. But if there's debris in it, that's another thing. We've seen logs, timber, rocks, and other things in the water," Vogrin said.
Vogrin suggests that during heavy flow events from Hayden Creek and Big Cottonwood Creek, Arkansas River recreationalists utilize areas upstream, or west of Coaldale.