Dangerous runoff conditions, along with a vehicle water recovery effort that occupied much of the city’s rescue personnel, led the City of Golden to close Clear Creek to recreational use on June 12.
Water levels, and the rate of recreational swimmers and tubers in the creek were on the rise earlier that week.
According to Golden city records, there were three incidents of people in the creek getting into distress — requiring aid getting out of the water, and/or recovering from the cold water’s effects – from Sunday to Tuesday. No serious injuries were reported.
“We helped fish this little 19-year-old tuber out of the creek,” Keifer Logsdon of Greenwood Village said, alongside his friend Bailey Pate on June 10.
The two were sunning themselves near a flooded section of the Clear Creek trail, when they said they helped the young man pull himself up the creek bank.
“He was yelling ‘Help.’ I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t,” Logsdon said of the tuber.
Logsdon described the creek water level as “crazy.” Beginning last week, record high temperatures contributed to higher run-off water volumes along the creek, leading to portions of the city’s creek-side trails to become flooded beginning on June 12. Flood-prone sections were closed to the public.
According to the U.S. Geologic Survey’s Golden monitoring station, the seasonal peak of flow in Clear Creek seems to have occurred in the early morning hours of June 12, at around 1,300 cubic feet per second.
The 38-year average creek volume is 680 cubic feet. Last year, the flow for this time of year was only 380 cubic feet due to drought and a warm spring.
“It is time consuming. Every time we get a report of an empty tube floating downstream, we have to investigate,” Golden Fire’s Battalion Chief Jerry Stricker said, indicating that the city had received several such calls in recent days.
Due to the conditions, and stretched resources, the city banned all non-professional water recreation in Clear Creek for a day.
The ban was lifted Thursday, June 13, but city Public Information Officer Karlyn Tilley said she continues to recommend great caution.
“We still urge people to not get in the creek because of the high water levels. And we strongly encourage wearing life vests and helmets if they do,” Tilley said.
Stricker said he expects water flows to slowly decrease, perhaps becoming safer for tubers and swimmer later in the summer.
For the present however, he says it is not recommended, and describes the current creek water as “powerful and relentless … and cold.”