USFS: Hanging Lake trail closed for the foreseeable future due to damage

White River National Forest

Hanging Lake water is clearing following July debris flows

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 18, 2021) – The Forest Service announced today that Hanging Lake Trail will be closed for the rest of the season and likely beyond. The announcement comes following a preliminary trail assessment this week that found significant damage and issues resulting from debris flows following the intense rain storms in late July.

“Unfortunately, when our crews surveyed the trail, we found significant damage.  Bridges have been completely destroyed or severely damaged and there are mudslides blocking large sections of the trail.  The Hanging Lake Trail is not safe and impassable in some areas and will remain closed for the foreseeable future,” said White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. “The debris flows we saw in July are probably not the last we will see, so there could be additional damage in the weeks and months ahead.”

A more detailed survey of the trail needs to be completed to determine the next steps for trail repair and reconstruction.

“We know this is difficult news for the many people who cherish Hanging Lake,” Fitzwilliams said. “It’s also tough for the community and those of us who have worked to protect this iconic Colorado destination.  We are committed to doing everything we can to reconstruct the trail as soon as funds become available.”

Reservation holders will be given the opportunity for a refund or to donate to a fund to help Hanging Lake and area. More information is available at VisitGlenwood.com.

“The good news is that the water in Hanging Lake is clearing from the debris flow, the boardwalk at the lake wasn’t damaged, and the fish are still swimming,” Fitzwilliams said.

Hanging Lake
Hanging Lake
Hanging Lake bridge previous location
Previous location of bridge
Hanging Lake bridge damage
Bridge damage
USFS: Hanging Lake trail closed for the foreseeable future due to damage

CDOT: Travel alert for I-70 Glenwood Canyon, NWS: monsoons return

Colorado Department of Transportation

Showers/storms in western Colorado are forecasted tomorrow afternoon, 8/18.

Note: If a Flash Flood Warning is in effect, expect Glenwood Canyon to close for safety. Check COtrip.org to plan ahead.

National Weather Service

Today brought another day of warmer temperatures, then clouds and thunderstorms will bring some heat relief Wednesday and Thursday.

CDOT: Travel alert for I-70 Glenwood Canyon, NWS: monsoons return

NWS: Flash flood watch over Grizzly Creek burn area

National Weather Service

Map of flash flood watch area

Central Colorado River Basin-Gore and Elk Mountains/Central Mountain Valleys-Flat Tops
544 PM MDT Mon Aug 16 2021

FLASH FLOOD WATCH FOR THE GRIZZLY CREEK FIRE BURN AREA IN EFFECT UNTIL 8 PM MDT THIS EVENING

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a:

* Flash Flood Watch for the Grizzly Creek Fire burn area in portions of northwest Colorado and west central Colorado, including the following areas, in northwest Colorado, Flat Tops. In west central Colorado, Central Colorado River Basin and Gore and Elk Mountains/Central Mountain valleys.

* Until 8 p.m. MDT this evening.

* National Weather Service Meteorologists are forecasting possible heavy rainfall over the Grizzly Creek Fire burn area, which may lead to flash flooding and debris flows.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

You should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take action should Flash Flood Warnings be issued.

NWS: Flash flood watch over Grizzly Creek burn area

Governor Polis, CDOT announce I-70 open ahead of schedule

Colorado Governor’s Office

CDOT working around the clock to clear Glenwood Canyon

GLENWOOD CANYON – Governor Jared Polis and Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Executive Director Shoshana Lew announced that I-70 through Glenwood Canyon has reopened in both directions this morning–ahead of the schedule set by Governor Polis earlier this week. CDOT will continue to provide operational updates and media materials as work in Glenwood Canyon continues.

“Our team has worked tirelessly to get Glenwood Canyon on I-70 opened as soon as possible and we have made each minute count. I’m thrilled that we are delivering a few hours ahead of schedule. Every moment counts. I want to thank Shoshana Lew for her leadership on this effort as CDOT has worked day and night to safely clear a path. It has been an all-hands-on-deck effort to get the canyon reopened from the mudslides which covered parts of the highway with fifteen feet of rock and sludge,” said Governor Jared Polis. “We know that the longer-term repairs will take time and that, as we battle new challenges to our infrastructure with climate change, alternative routes for the I-70 corridor become more urgent.  Our administration is focused on the short, medium, and long term response and recovery from this incident.”

This Wednesday, Governor Polis and CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew observed the extensive damage and around-the-clock repair and debris clearing efforts performed by CDOT.

“There’s going to be a lot to see as you’re driving on I-70 and we know that this will be interesting for all those traversing through the canyon,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “But we urge motorists to please keep your eyes on the roadway. We already expect traffic to be slower through the canyon due to the temporary road configuration and reduced speed limits. The last thing we need is distracted driving, or worse, a crash in the canyon which would inevitably force a closure of I-70. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation in keeping the road open and maintaining this vital connection for people and communities nearby.” 

Coloradans can find the latest updates and information on alternative routes at  www.codot.gov/travel/glenwoodcanyon

Governor Polis, CDOT announce I-70 open ahead of schedule

CDOT: Glenwood Canyon open one lane eastbound and westbound

Colorado State Patrol

Aug. 14, 10:51 a.m. – Expect dust, dirt AND slower speed limits through the Glenwood Canyon with multiple lane closures in various locations. Thank you, CDOT, for your dedication, long hours, and hard work getting the road open.

Colorado Department of Transportation

TRAVEL UPDATE | ONE LANE IN EACH DIRECTION OPEN – Glenwood Canyon

UPDATE – 7:05 a.m. (8/14/21) – I-70 Glenwood Canyon is OPEN.

I-70 Glenwood Canyon is open both eastbound and westbound from mile post 116 (Glenwood Springs) to mile post 133 (Dotsero).

Garco 911

I-70 is open between mile-markers mm 116 (Glenwood Springs) to mm 133 (Dotsero) both directions. Motorists should plan for slower speeds and congestion through the canyon, especially at mm 123.5 where traffic is in the temporary one lane configuration.

CDOT: Glenwood Canyon open one lane eastbound and westbound

Garfield, Eagle counties mull Cottonwood Pass options

Garfield County

CDOT reports that full closure of Glenwood Canyon should end in ‘days, not weeks’

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – Commissioners from Garfield and Eagle countries met with Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials on Tuesday to discuss the Interstate 70 closure in Glenwood Canyon, and potential improvements to Cottonwood Pass Road, a mostly undeveloped route that connects the town of Gypsum to Highway 82 between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

Interstate 70 is closed through Glenwood Canyon due to a series of large mudslides and debris flows that damaged the roadway on July 29, rendering it impassable. The slides originated near a burn scar from last summer’s Grizzly Creek Fire, which encompassed 32,631 acres.

CDOT Executive Director Shoshana M. Lew told the commissioners that the full closure should be in place for days, rather than weeks, and that some form of throughfare would be open as soon as repairs are made, and the canyon is deemed safe.

“We’re working in real time to get a contractor in there to get this fixed,” she added.

CDOT Region 3 Director Mike Goolsby reported that most of blockage has been removed from the roadway, though there are four large areas of debris in the Colorado River. The greatest extent of damage to the interstate exists at mile marker 123.5 in the eastbound lane, where there’s a hole in the road that’s 20 feet deep, and 70 to 80 feet in diameter. The Glenwood Canyon Recreation Trail is likely closed indefinitely, CDOT added.

“The governor wants all four lanes in the canyon open by Thanksgiving,” Goolsby said.

Both Garfield and Eagle county commissioners noted that the impacts on the area’s workforce and residents traveling to medical appointments have been substantial. They also noted how the closure has affected business and supply lines on the Western Slope.

Governor Jared Polis has requested $116 million in federal aid from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Emergency Relief program to help with Interstate 70 cleanup and repair efforts. Of that amount, 10 percent was approved for an emergency disbursement on Tuesday afternoon.

If the funding request is approved, $50 million is slated to cover a study of Cottonwood Pass and the development of safety improvements, added CDOT Chief Engineer Steve Harelson. 

Cottonwood Pass traffic increased heavily during closure

Despite being a potentially dangerous and unrecommended alternative to Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon, traffic through the remote corridor over Cottonwood Pass is on the rise, necessitating the meeting between the two county’s elected officials.

“We are seeing how connected we are in terms of workforce during this closure,” said Eagle County Board Chair Matt Scherr.

Eagle County estimated safety improvements, including lane widening, realignment, and additional guardrails, could cost $10.05 million for the basic, two-lane county road in the short term. The improvements would also mean that Cottonwood Pass would be closed for a period of time.

In 2010, large scale safety improvements on Cottonwood Pass were estimated at between $47 and $62 million, and those numbers are estimated to be much larger now, according to Eagle County’s presentation. 

The hard gypsum soil in the area makes large-scale work difficult, necessitating the use of special equipment and perhaps even blasting the ground, according to Eagle County Engineer Ben Gerdes.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky thanked Eagle County for its work to keep Cottonwood Pass open during the canyon closure. He noted the stress that the increased traffic has had on homeowners along the route. 

“I’m hearing from the folks that live below Cottonwood Pass,” Jankovsky said. “They are just inundated with traffic. From my perspective, this needs to continue to be a two-lane county road that’s utilized by our citizens.”

Cottonwood Pass Road (10A) itself is roughly 15.5 miles long in Eagle County, with just 1.8 miles of that road located in – and maintained by – Garfield County. Overall, the passage is around 26 miles between Highway 82 and Gypsum Creek Road.

From Highway 82, Cottonwood Pass Road (10A) is met from Garfield County by taking Spring Valley Road to County Road 115 (Red Canyon Road) and meeting with County Road 113 (Cattle Creek Road), which then connects with 10A near the boundary with Eagle County. The 10A road is typically open from April to November, weather conditions permitting.

The Garfield County roads leading to Cottonwood Pass aren’t designed to handle the increased traffic volume, and many pass uncomfortably close to homes and ranch properties. All the routes connecting Highway 82 and Gypsum Creek Road feature tight corners and switchbacks, which can be especially perilous during inclement weather.

Garfield County bars semis and commercial vehicles from traveling on these roads, outside of local deliveries to homeowners. According to Eagle County Road and Bridge, any vehicle greater than 8’6” in width, 14’6” in height and 45 feet in length requires a permit to travel over Cottonwood Pass. However, during a closure in Glenwood Canyon, a 35-foot length limit is in effect by Eagle County due to increased vehicle traffic.

“It’s not going to be a commercial route,” said Commissioner John Martin. “It just can’t be. The sheriff’s office would run out of tow trucks.”

Garfield, Eagle counties mull Cottonwood Pass options

CDOT: I-70 Glenwood Canyon safety closure update: Tuesday, Aug. 10

Colorado Department of Transportation

Good weather all day on Monday meant no interruptions for crews at work in Glenwood Canyon. 195 loads of slide material such as mud, rocks and trees (approximately 13 tons per load) were hauled out on Monday to dumpsites at Mile Points 119 (No Name) and 133 (Dotsero) on I-70, and Mile Point 9.3 on Colorado Highway 82. There was not an official weather watch on Monday from NOAA and there was no precipitation at the burn scar or in the canyon.

Interstate clean up

On the east end of the canyon (east of Hanging Lake Tunnel): crews continued cleaning from Hanging Lake Tunnel to Bair Ranch, loading trucks with 120 loads on Monday. Crews also focused on cleaning for the second time an 8′ x 12’ box culvert at Ty Gulch (MP 129.8). Crews were able to clean about halfway through and also exposed three 48” culverts that will be cleaned out today (Tuesday). The priority will be to continue cleaning up all the slides from Hanging Lake Tunnel to Bair Ranch on the eastbound lanes as there is still a lot of material in this area. 

On the west end of the canyon (west of Hanging Lake Tunnel): crews hauled 75 loads on Monday and continued to excavate debris mud at the MP 123.5 eastbound (at Blue Gulch). The west side crew will concentrate on the north side of MP 123.5 to expose a buried box culvert and start making a pad for “super sacks” to sit tomorrow. The goal is to place 60 super sacks, or bags of bedding sand, to the north of the roadway to help protect against future debris flows in that area. Crews were also able to clean debris at MP 123.6 westbound.         

Engineering update

CDOT’s engineering teams were able to conduct in-depth assessments of roadway damage at MP 123.5 (Blue Gulch) made possible by the weekend slide material removal progress. Overall, CDOT believes that the roadway infrastructure can accommodate reopening westbound I-70 to one lane after additional slide material is removed and temporary barriers, rockfall protection and other roadway safety devices are installed to safely temporarily re-open westbound with lane restrictions. This confirmation will help expedite the temporary westbound I-70 reopening timeline.

The engineering teams were also able to verify that the eastbound I-70 remaining roadway infrastructure can also accommodate reopening eastbound I-70 to one lane after approximately 100 feet of roadway embankment and temporary asphalt pavement  is reconstructed along with the necessary roadway safety devices. 

The engineering teams will be conducting additional inspections today at Blue Gulch. CDOT is also coordinating with Xcel Energy at Blue Gulch as Xcel’s infrastructure includes a high voltage line that provides service to CDOT’s Hanging Lake Tunnels and other major Xcel facilities within Glenwood Canyon. CDOT was able to re-establish power to the Hanging Lake Tunnels via a redundant feed from Holy Cross Energy.

Traffic control points at the Exit 87, CO 6 & 13 bypass, and at MP 133 are now being run by a contractor. CDOT and contractor crews are jointly managing Exit 116; CDOT is still manning both sides of CO 82 Independence Pass until the contractor can mobilize more flaggers.

CDOT: I-70 Glenwood Canyon safety closure update: Tuesday, Aug. 10

Colorado receives federal emergency funds one day after Polis Administration request

Colorado Unified Coordination Group

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Just one business day after the Polis Administration formally requested support, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced it will release $11.6 million, or 10% of the total request, through its quick-release process. FHWA first informed the Colorado Congressional Delegation earlier today per protocol. Governor Jared Polis and Department of Transportation Director Shoshana Lew made the full request in a letter yesterday to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and FHWA Acting Administrator Stephanie Pollack, following a separate submission to the FHWA Colorado Division office. 

“We are thrilled to have such close coordination with our federal partners to ensure federal resources are quickly on their way to Colorado,” said Gov. Polis. “Crews and staff across state government are working in all-hands-on-deck mode to deal with the devastating damage to Glenwood Canyon and I-70, and having the same level of support from federal partners at the Federal Highway Administration ensures we can keep working at a rapid pace to restore this economic and recreation highway.”

“CDOT’s maintenance teams have made great progress in recovery operations, allowing our engineers to make similar strides in developing a plan to reopen I-70,” said Director Lew. “Thanks to the fast and strong support of our federal delegation as well as the backing of FHWA, CDOT can continue to work quickly with the assurance that resources will remain available. I want to add a special thanks to FHWA Colorado Division staff who have provided technical support throughout this incident and helped smooth the process to help deliver this quick support.”

Here is Gov. Polis and Director Lew’s letter to Secretary Buttigieg and Acting Administrator Pollack and CDOT’s submissions to the FHWA Colorado Division which was sent yesterday. This follows issuance of two Executive Orders from Governor Polis last week, as well as a letter from the Colorado congressional delegation on Saturday, August 7, 2021 stressing the urgency of this matter to the state.

Colorado receives federal emergency funds one day after Polis Administration request

CDOT: I-70 Glenwood Canyon safety closure update Monday, August 8

Colorado Department of Transportation

Good weather during the weekend allowed crews to work without interruption on clearing mud and other debris from I-70 in Glenwood Canyon. CDOT crews were able to make significant progress during the weekend of Saturday, August 7 and Sunday, August 8, hauling 440 loads over the two days. Each truck load equals 13 tons of material. There was not an official weather watch over the weekend from NOAA and there was no precipitation at the burn scar or in the canyon.

Interstate clean up:
Work included 204 loads hauled on Sunday, August 8, to the CDOT dumpsites at No Name (Mile Point 119) and Dotsero (MP 133) on I-70, and at MP 9.3 on Highway 82. 

On the east side of Glenwood Canyon, crews continued to work on loading trucks. The east side of Glenwood Canyon is from Hanging Lake Tunnel (MP 125) to the east. Crews cleared the remainder of the debris from the eastbound lanes at MP 124.3, which is an important area to assess in order to determine what is required to safely reopen I-70. Crews continued cleaning from Hanging Lake Tunnel to Bair Ranch, loading trucks with 110 loads on Sunday. Work will resume tomorrow with crews cleaning drainages and drop drains, and washing roadways. The priority will be to continue to clean up all the slides from Hanging Lake Tunnel to Bair Ranch on the eastbound lanes, where there is still a lot of debris.  

On the west side of Glenwood Canyon (The west side of Glenwood Canyon is west of Hanging Lake Tunnel): 94 loads were hauled on Sunday, Aug 8. Crews were able to completely uncover the remainder of the debris at the washed out area at MP 123.5 (Blue Gulch) eastbound, so that the CDOT inspections and CDOT engineering teams can get a better assessment of the damage. This is one of the most critical areas for the inspection/engineering team to inspect the potential damage now that the debris is cleared in order for visual inspection to occur.  That area measures approximately 120 feet wide on the north side/passing lane and narrows up to approximately 70 feet on the south side/driving lane (see photo). 

Crews will continue to excavate the debris mud out to original grade/solid ground today (Mon., Aug. 9).  Eastbound lanes have been cleared all the way to the MP 123.5 with rocks cleaned off (see photo). Also on the west side of the canyon, crews were able to remove a large boulder.

Priorities for Monday, August 9:

Crews will pick up where things ended on Sunday at MP 123.5. Smaller areas still need to be cleaned eastbound and westbound at MP 123 and westbound at MP 123.7-123.8, and all eastbound from Hanging Lake Tunnel to Bair Ranch.

The engineering team will be conducting inspections, with better access now that crews have been able to remove more debris.

Traffic control points at the Exit 87, CO 6 & 13 bypass, and at MP 133 are now being run by a contractor. CDOT and contractor crews are jointly managing Exit 116; CDOT is still manning both sides of CO 82 Independence Pass until the contractor can mobilize more flaggers.

CDOT: I-70 Glenwood Canyon safety closure update Monday, August 8