Abstract Hydrological mechanisms controlling the variation of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) were investigated in the Deer Creek catchment located near Montezuma, CO. Patterns of DOC in streamflow suggested that increased flows through the upper soil horizon during snowmelt are responsible for flushing this DOC-enriched interstitial water to the streams. We examined possible hydrological mechanisms to explain the observed variability of DOC in Deer Creek by first simulating the hydrological response of the catchment using TOPMODEL and then routing the predicted flows through a simple model that accounted for temporal changes in DOC. Conceptually the DOC model can be taken to represent a terrestrial (soil) reservoir in which DOC builds up during low flow periods and is flushed out when infiltrating meltwaters cause the water table to rise into this “reservoir”. Concentrations of DOC measured in the upper soil and in streamflow were compared to model simulations. The simulated DOC response provides a reasonable reproduction of the observed dynamics of DOC in the stream at Deer Creek.