Refresh this page for the latest information, updated about twice per week.
Medano Creek reached average peak flow on May 26 and has quickly declined to less than half of peak flow (see graph linked below). It is flowing in braided streams with a total width of about 30-70 feet (9-21 m) wide, and 1-5 inches (2-12 cm) deep in the deepest channels.
Throughout the season, flow is normally highest at dawn, and lowest at dusk. Rain may temporarily boost flow.
The creek peaked on May 26 and will continue to decline throughout June. June brings more consistently warm temperatures for water play and generally pleasant conditions the first week of June, but storm fronts may bring chilly conditions. Late May and early June are the best opportunity to experience ‘surge flow’, where waves flow down across the sand. The creek is wider and shallower than average this year, so floating is not possible.
Because of the creek's popularity, early June weekends are extremely crowded, with long lines of traffic, overflowing parking lots, a crowded beach, and full campgrounds. If possible, plan your visit on a weekday this time of year.
When the creek becomes much lower around the second week of June, mosquitoes emerge. 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 level will be fairly low, only 1-2 inches (1-5 cm) deep.
July 2023 Forecast
In July, unless there are significant ongoing rains, the creek will begin retreating back toward the mountains and will dry up at the main visitor area near the Dunes Parking Lot. It may continue to gently flow along the eastern edge of the dunefield, near 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 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 as long as there is low, warm water around the dunes 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.
August and September 2023 Forecast
In late summer and fall, 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 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. When flow drops below 4 cfs, Medano Creek does not usually reach the Dunes Parking Area.
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 3, 2023
11999 State Highway 150
Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center main number