We propose an explainable machine learning (ML) model with uncertainty quantification (UQ) to improve multi-step reservoir inflow forecasting. Traditional ML methods have challenges in forecasting inflows multiple days ahead, and lack explainability and UQ. To address these limitations, we introduce an encoder–decoder long short-term memory (ED-LSTM) network for multi-step forecasting, employ the SHapley Additive exPlanation (SHAP) technique for understanding the influence of hydrometeorological factors on inflow prediction, and develop a novel UQ method for prediction trustworthiness. We apply these methods to forecast 7-day inflow in snow-dominant and rain-driven reservoirs. The results demonstrate the effectiveness of the ED-LSTM model, with high forecasting accuracy for short lead times. Our UQ method provides reliable uncertainty estimates, covering 90% of data with a 90% confidence level. The SHAP analysis reveals the importance of historical inflow and precipitation as influential factors. These findings and methods may support reservoir operators in optimizing water resources management decisions.