Ranger Kathryn's Arches

September 1, 2010

Mineral Bottom Switchbacks: MIA

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:53 pm
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Complete wash-out of many bends of the full-size road at Mineral Bottom

Summer monsoons are much-anticipated in the desert. Often we’ll get an afternoon thunderstorm, lightning bolts for excitement, some rain (usually in the tenths or hundredths of an inch) to freshen the trails and release some sage smells, and then things blow off and clear up. On August 19, 2010, however, the monsoon storm clouds parked themselves right over Canyonlands National Park and unleashed complete havoc. Wind, hail (many inches of which remained in a ditch next morning), and 1.1 inch of rain in twenty minutes proved far too much for our roads and trails.

Sign warning road users of what lies ahead

The Mineral Bottom Switchbacks got the worst of it. Because of their location 1000 feet above the Green River boat ramp, they are a main thoroughfare for all kinds of traffic: boat, bike, jeep. The county installed some diversion system to move run-off away from them; it was utterly overwhelmed by the quantity of rain in the short period of time. This full-size road looks for all the world as if Godzilla slid right down the thousand feet of cliff, taking out the entire center section while leaving the turns at the edges. The county engineers suspect it will be some time next year before they can rebuild it, from the bedrock up.

This will change a LOT about how Island in the Sky handles its fall visitorship, which revolves heavily around getting traffic (bike, jeep, boat) onto and off of the White Rim Road. Now there remains only one functional access for a 108-mile loop. The Park Service will rally, however. We are known for our resourcefulness, and will find a way to help our visitors enjoy the backcountry — Mineral Bottom or no. Let the failed switchbacks stand as a sobering reminder, however, of the power of running water. After all, it is what sculpted the entirety of Canyonlands National Park.

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