While parts of southeastern Montana are shoveling out from a significant snowstorm, Bighorn River enthusiasts are turning their eyes to the mountains of Wyoming to assess how conditions across state lines are faring in regards to Bighorn River flows and the upcoming fishing season. Unfortunately, the storm that dropped 6-10 inches of snow in Billings passed over most of the Bighorn Basin, leaving much of the basin and its mountain ranges below average for this time of year.
Earlier this month BHRA participated in a water call with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to discuss Yellowtail dam operations and current basin conditions. Current snowpack for the basin sits at 89% of median, and models are forecasting the April-July inflow forecast to be 900,000 acre feet, which is 73% of average, and 200,000 acre feet more than what was predicted last year at this time.
Late winter/early spring forecasts are to be taken very lightly, as the Bighorn Basin receives much of its precipitation from spring Front Range upslope events which are unpredictable and hard to forecast. However, if these forecasts were to be spot on (which they won’t be) we would anticipate April-July minimum average river releases to be between 2500cfs and 3500cfs. Forecast accuracy will improve as we get closer to spring and BHRA will continue dialogue with the BOR to stay updated on basin conditions. The good news is that conditions are faring better than 2021, despite the basin remaining below average in snowpack. So far, the upcoming season looks good!