Project Overview

Boulder Creek runs through the heart of the city. It contains a multi-use path and is a part of Boulder’s greenways system. It provides a habitat for wildlife, transportation, recreation and beauty for community members. It is also included when flooding is studied.

The Boulder Creek watershed is approximately 440 square miles. It extends west of the City of Boulder to the Continental Divide with elevations exceeding 13,000 feet. Boulder Creek generally flows east, and then northeast across the city until its confluence with the St. Vrain Creek and on to the confluence with the Platte River. Its waters ultimately flow into the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.

19th Street Bridge Project

The University of Colorado, Boulder is constructing an ADA compliant bridge from 19th/Grandview to the main campus. As part of the project, CU will erect a temporary bridge to access the area to the south of Boulder Creek. For more information, please visit CU's project webpage

Eben G. Fine Park Streambank Restoration Project

The Eben G. Fine Park Stream Bank Restoration project included stream bank stabilization, erosion protection, habitat restoration, and recreation enhancements within Eben G. Fine Park between the northern sidewalk and Boulder Creek. The Project was completed in June 2016.

Boulder Creek Mapping and Mitigation Information

Boulder Creek Floodplain Mapping Update

The Boulder Creek Floodplain Mapping Study evaluated the floodplain from the area west of 61st Street, upstream to the mouth of Boulder Canyon, west of Boulder city limits. The study area included an area of 5.5 square miles.

Based on this study, the city has developed new floodplain maps for Boulder Creek that replace both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) and the City of Boulder floodplain map. The Boulder Creek floodplain mapping became effective on December 7, 2017.

The floodplain maps were developed based on:

  • Updated topographic data,
  • Updated floodplain, floodway and high-hazard zone boundaries, and
  • City improvements that help reduce flooding along Boulder Creek.

City Council adopted the Boulder Creek floodplain mapping study on Sept. 18, 2012. In November 2013, FEMA accepted the results of the study and will be adopting the new mapping through the Physical Map Revision process, a process that can take several years. FEMA released Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) on July 23, 2015 and held an Open House meeting Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. These maps are available on FEMA's website: http://msc.fema.gov/portal

Boulder Creek Restoration Master Plan

The Boulder Creek Restoration Master Plan is a joint effort with the City of Boulder, the Mile High Flood District, Boulder County and the City of Longmont.

Boulder Creek Flow Rates

General Information

The flow rate of a creek, river or flood is measured by quantity over time. This is referred to as the discharge, the rate at which a volume of water passes a specific point in a specific amount of time.

Under normal conditions, Boulder Creek typically flows at a rate between 100 and 300 cubic feet per second (cfs).

Current Flow Rates

What does cfs mean? How much water is it?

Cubic feet per second (cfs) is the most common unit used to measure the flow rates of creeks, rivers and floods. One cubic foot per second is equal to the discharge through a rectangular cross section, one foot wide by one foot deep, flowing at an average velocity of one foot per second. This is equivalent to approximately 7.5 gallons of water per second.

Base Flow Rates

Boulder Creek typically has a low base flow (up to 300 cfs) between fall and late winter. Flow comes from snowmelt runoff, rainfall or groundwater. Water flows well within the creek banks and is typically flowing clear. Very low flow periods are supplemented with flow from Barker Reservoir to ensure adequate flow for aquatic habitats.

BOULDER CREEK BASE FLOW RATES IN CUBIC FEET PER SECOND (CFS)

52

102

212

Spring Flow Rates

Boulder Creek typically begins to flow higher during spring snowmelt runoff. Flows are within the creek bank and typically do not exceed 500 cfs. The creek generally flows clear, but periods of turbid (cloudy) water can occur from excessive snowmelt runoff. Tubing, rafting and kayaking are allowed.

BOULDER CREEK SPRING FLOW RATES IN CUBIC FEET PER SECOND (CFS)

341

456

Late Spring Flow Rates

In the late spring, Boulder Creek flows increase once Barker Reservoir fills and spills. Boulder Creek flows can exceed 800 cfs, with a ban on tubing typically beginning at 700 to 800 cfs. Flow in the creek typically reaches the banks during late spring, and is swift-flowing and typically turbid (cloudy) due to high runoff. It is not unusual for Boulder Creek Path underpasses to be closed during late spring flows.

BOULDER CREEK LATE SPRING FLOW RATES IN CUBIC FEET PER SECOND (CFS)

631

687

933

High Flow Rates

The greatest chance for high flows in Boulder Creek occurs during periods of heavy rain. The greatest threat for heavy rain is typically during the summer months, but flooding can occur at any time. The creek level can rise very quickly during heavy rain storms. The creek begins to overflow its banks and flood underpasses in many locations when flow exceeds 1,000 cfs. More extensive flooding will begin to occur when flows exceed 2,000 cfs. The 100-year flood along Boulder Creek is estimated to produce flow rates of about 12,000 cfs.

Predicted Flow Rates for Boulder Creek at Broadway

FLOOD EVENT PEAK FLOW
10-year 2,200 cfs
25-year 5,580 cfs
50-year 8,000 cfs
100-year 12,000 cfs
500-year 21,800 cfs

Boulder Creek Webcam