Forest conditions update
Record snowpack, slow snow melt, high water, flooding, mud, slides, road damage
by Bridger-Teton National Forest
June 17, 2011
Bridger-Teton National Forest Conditions, as of Friday, June, 17, 2011
Record snowpack in Wyoming combined with above average precipitation this spring is causing landslides and road and trail damage in the Jackson area as snow begins to melt and soils become saturated. The National Weather Service is forecasting creeks and rivers will continue to run high and swift this week as the record mountain snowpack slowly melts. Significant rainfall with snow above 7500 feet is predicted Sunday and Monday; this precipitation will exacerbate runoff. Some locations will continue to experience minor flooding.
No new landslides have been reported in the Jackson area but the Forest is continuing to document new issues on roads and trails. Over 40 incidents of road damage have now been observed across the Forest ranging from fairly minor issues to a handful or so of major issues. The Pinedale Ranger District is reporting new road issues daily.
The snow water equivalent in the snowpack around Jackson Hole is currently 616% of average according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, considerably higher than at the same time in 1997 which was the last time Jackson Hole experience large floods.
The high water and record snowpack has made some Forest roads impassable and is delaying the opening of some campgrounds. It is increasingly apparent that some roads on the Forest will remain closed all summer due to inability to repair the damage enough to allow safe vehicle travel.
The high water is also affecting recreation activities that occur on or near water, notably boating, trail use that involves creek crossings, and camping near streams and rivers. Water levels are expected to peak in mid-to late June. The Forest Service has formed a Type 3 Incident Command team and is working with County emergency teams and WYDOT in a coordinated response to ensure public safety and implement an assessment and prioritization process to respond to road damage.
1. Public safety is our greatest concern. Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States. Some floods develop slowly but flash floods can develop quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes. Search and rescue along with other emergency responders will be stretched thin so preventing the need for rescue is paramount.
2. Conditions are changing rapidly. Prior planning and preparation is critical to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to the National Forest. Visitors are strongly advised to check current conditions before arriving for a visit.
3. Information is available and will be updated regularly. Check the websites listed below or contact the Forest Service at (307) 739-5500
4. Recreation opportunities are available on the National Forest. Information on some of these opportunities is listed below.
Closures: A temporary closure remains in effect for some Forest roads in the Jackson area. Closed roads include the North Fork Fall Creek, Mosquito Creek, Dog Creek, Little Granite Creek, upper Curtis Canyon and Sheep Creek road, Flat Creek, Crystal Creek, Ditch Road and portions of the Shadow Mountain road. The Pacific Creek road is open for day use activities, but closed to overnight camping. The South Fork of Spread Creek is closed due to road damage.
Road Conditions: Many Forest roads on the Jackson and Buffalo District remain closed due to lingering snow and/or road damage. The Granite Creek road is now open to the Hot Springs. The Gros Ventre road is also open, however due to road damage, high clearance vehicles are recommended and pulling trailers is not advised beyond the Slate Creek gate. Other open roads include the Fall Creek road, lower Curtis Canyon, Spread Creek, Greys River and Little Greys River road. The Fall Creek road has a 12 ton load limit on the bridge and is at risk for flooding, thus could experience closures. The road crew has moved equipment to the Gros Ventre road and hopes to complete work there by the end of next week. Please be advised that more rain will delay road work. Forest visitors are reminded to comply with closure signs to prevent damage to road surfaces and ensure safety. Don’t risk getting stuck in a remote area. Closed roads are open to non-motorized uses.
River Conditions: The Snake River is open. Boaters are advised to stay river right in the vicinity of the Double Draw landslide due to a stringer in the river. Water levels continue to be high with the Alpine gage recording 19,900 cfs this afternoon. High water levels, fast currents and floating debris such as large trees continue to be safety concerns for those looking to recreate on or near the river. River features are changing with the high water and floating trees and debris are lodging against bridges and natural features. Hypothermia is a very real threat for any boater ejected from his/her boat. Boaters are strongly advised to thoroughly check conditions before getting on the river, build in an extra margin of safety, wear approved life jackets, be prepared for self-rescue, and go with BTNF permitted outfitters. WYDOT work in the landslide area is causing 20 minute delays on Highway 26/89.
Campgrounds: Open campgrounds include Atherton, Curtis, East Table, Station Creek, Little Cottonwood, Wolf Creek, Kozy, Hatchet, and Turpin. The Granite Creek campground and Hot Springs is now open. Delayed openings are expected for Hoback, Red Hills, Crystal Creek, and Pacific Creek campgrounds due to high water. Campers in the Snake River Canyon are advised that continuing work in the landslide area will create noise. Visitors are advised to check with local district offices for specific conditions on the Grey’s River, Big Piney, Pinedale, and Kemmerer Districts. Campers are reminded that fast-moving, cold water can be dangerous. Be safe by keeping yourself, children and pets away from streams and rivers. Dispersed campers are advised to not camp immediately adjacent to rivers.
Trail Conditions: Most trails remain under snow. Lower elevation trails in the Jackson area are open in the Greater Snow King area and Munger Mountain area, but rain events quickly result in poor conditions. If mud is piling up on your shoes, or tires, or horse, the trails are too wet to use. In the Teton Pass area, trails are generally open up to the Crater Lake elevation. Snow levels are generally at 7,800 feet. Trail users are strongly advised to plan trips to avoid creek crossings. Creek crossings such as on the Dog Creek or Willow Creek trails are being reported as impossible right now. Crossings are expected to be hazardous for an extended period. Be aware that water levels in creeks generally peak in the evening hours thus a creek that can be crossed in the morning may be impassable in the late afternoon or evening. Trail crews are encountering a number of carcasses and are seeing bear tracks, so be alert, keep dogs well within sight, and carry pepper spray. Baby animals are starting to appear. Give mom and her calf plenty of space and leash you dog if you see a baby animal.
More Information: Please visit http://www.inciweb.org for more information and related links.