This year's flow is about 1/4 of normal due to low snowpack. With little snow left on the mountains, Medano Creek is close to drying up at the Dunes Parking Area. The creek currently averages about 10 feet (3 m) wide, in braided channels 1/4 to 1/2 inch (1 cm) deep. There are no surge waves. Current flow is 6 cubic feet per second (cfs), measured where the creek first reaches the dunes a few miles upstream from the Dunes Parking Lot. Flow continues to decline overall, but occasional rain is giving the creek small temporary boosts. Peak flow in an average year is 40 cfs, but it did not reach anywhere close to that level in 2022.
Creek flow is usually highest at dawn, and lowest at dusk. By late afternoon, the creek may just be a trickle or a dry creekbed.
Mosquitoes have emerged as they usually do in mid-June, but are less this year due to less water.
Forecast Flow for the Remainder of the Season
Medano Creek's depth and duration directly corresponds to snowpack levels in the mountains where it originates. Medano Creek's flow is about 1/4 of average in 2022.
As the creek becomes much lower around mid-June, mosquitoes emerge. This year mosquitoes are less due to less water. Move away from vegetation, to the far side of the creek to avoid the worst of the mosquitoes: they don't like open sand, but prefer to be near shady bushes and trees. By late June, the water will just a trickle or drying up at the Dunes Parking Area. Thunderstorms may temporarily boost flow.
In July, unless there are significant ongoing rains, the creek will be retreating back toward the mountains and will be dried up at the main visitor area near the Dunes Parking Lot. It may continue to gently flow at 1/2" - 1" (1-2 cm) deep along the eastern edge of the dunefield, near the Castle Creek Picnic Area. Castle Creek is accessible by high clearance 4WD vehicle on the Medano Pass Primitive Road. Visitors without 4WD may also access the creek in late summer by hiking approximately 3 miles (5 km) up the creekbed from the Dunes Parking Lot, or approximately 0.7 miles (1km) from the Point of No Return parking area. Mosquitoes are typically still present in the first half of July but begin to disappear as the water retreats farther back toward the mountains. July is the warmest month at the park, with average highs in the low 80s F.
In August and September, the creek is still completely gone from the main visitor area near the Dunes Parking Lot. If dry conditions continue, it might not even flow near the Castle Creek Picnic Area. Castle Creek is accessible by high clearance 4WD vehicle on the Medano Pass Primitive Road. Visitors without 4WD may also access the creek late summer by hiking approximately 2 miles (3.5 km) up the creekbed from the Dunes Parking Lot, or 0.7 miles (1km) from the Point of No Return parking area. Mosquitoes are gone in late summer and fall.
Check Up-To-The-Minute Flow
See the current flow and trend of Medano Creek as a graph.
(Available spring through fall). The creek's flow on this graph is measured where it emerges from the forest and first enters the dunefield, not where it spreads out across the sand 5 miles downstream. This measurement gives an indication of the current flow relative to average peak flow. Peak flow in an average year is 40 cubic feet per second (cfs), typically occurring in late May or early June.
Médano is a Spanish word that means "sand dune". It is pronounced "MED-ah-no". In the original Spanish there is an accent on the é.
Medano Creek Activities
Depending on water level, visitors may do any non-motorized and non-mechanized activities in the creek, including splashing, surfing, wading, skimboarding, floating (works only in small raft or tube with a child at peak runoff), sand castle building, and sand sculpting.
To protect this riparian habitat, please do not disturb living plants or animals, and keep water resources clean.
Last updated: June 27, 2022
11999 State Highway 150
Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center main number