Expect higher river levels this May and June

Park rangers stress safety on the water on Indepedence Day

SPOKANE, Wash.– Cold weather in April and early May has left many rivers running a little below normal lately, which should pay off for the Inland Northwest this summer.

Only in the past ten days have water flows over Spokane Falls gone up for the first time since March. The flow in the Spokane River is still actually a little below the average for the first week of May, around 13,600 cubic feet per second (cfs).


On May 5, the 12,500 cfs over Spokane Falls could fill up 2,596 30-gallon bathtubs every second. The river actually hit 0ver 17,000 cfs in March when the Inland Northwest saw a stretch of unusually warm and dry weather.

April, however, was a whole different story. It was the 7th coldest April on record for Spokane and was the coldest on record in many parts of Central Washington. Numerous days of mountain snow actually led to the snowpack around the Northwest going up instead of down like your average April.  So far, that cold weather pattern has mostly continued into the start of May. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center is also projecting cooler weather to continue into the middle of the month.

River Flow And Temps

So what does this all mean? There’s still a lot of snow up there, so our first long stretch of warm weather in the next month or so will amp up the rivers to perhaps their highest levels of the year depending on how warm and dry it actually is. High water can be dangerous, so take care around the water in the first warm weeks of May and June since the bulk of the snowpack starts to come off the mountains.

It’s now most likely that the snowpack will be able to make it to July before it fully melts away in the Spokane area, 10 days later than 2021.

The longer the snowpack sticks around, the later in the year the mountain forests will dry out and kick off the wildfire season. We probably won’t see many fires in the timber to start the summer and will be on the lookout for mostly lowland grass fires instead if we have a dry spell in June and early July.

RELATED: Salmon may soon return to the Spokane and Columbia Rivers

This prolonged melting of the snowpack is also good news for river recreation this summer. It’s a good bet that water levels will be higher this year, which will keep the fish happy and the nasty algae away. All in all, it’s a satisfying development compared to a month ago when conditions were not looking as good.

RELATED: Ask the Weather Guys: How does radar see tornadoes?