Water Resources Research

Determination of hydrologic pathways during snowmelt for alpine/subalpine basins, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado


  • Julie K. Suecker,

  • Joseph N. Ryan,

  • Carol Kendall,

  • Robert D. Jarrett


Alpine/subalpine ecosystems in Rocky Mountain National Park may be sensitive to atmospherically derived acidic deposition. Two- and three-component hydrograph separation analyses and correlation analyses were performed for six basins to provide insight into streamflow generation during snowmelt and to assess basin sensitivity to acidic deposition. Three-component hydrograph separation results for five basins showed that streamflow contained from 42 to 57% direct snowmelt runoff, 37 to 54% subsurface water, and 4 to 13% direct rain runoff for the May through October 1994 study period. Subsurface contributions were 89% of total flow for the sixth basin. The reliability of hydrograph separation model assumptions was explored. Subsurface flow was positively correlated with the amount of surficial material in a basin and was negatively correlated with basin slope. Basins with extensive surficial material and shallow slopes are less susceptible to ecosystem changes due to acidic deposition than basins with less surficial material and steeper slopes. This study was initiated to expand the intensive hydrologic research that has been conducted in Loch Vale basin to a more regional scale.