Sunday, July 27, 2008

Winter Road Damage Limits Access to Windy Ridge on the East Side of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Forest Road 99, which provides access to the Windy Ridge viewpoint, has opened to the Bear Meadows interpretive site. Forest road crews recently encountered several areas affected by heavy snow pack and winter storm damage on this high elevation road (see photos posted at the bottom of this release). A major failure of Forest Road 99, which accesses the east side of the Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument (MSHNVM), will prevent visitors, for the remainder of the summer, from accessing the popular Windy Ridge viewpoint over looking Spirit Lake as well as the northeast side of the volcano. Forest personnel are completing road damage reports.

Visitors will only be able to access Windy Ridge on foot or by bicycle, as the road will remain closed to motor vehicles until further notice. It is approximately 11 miles one way from Bear Meadows to Wind Ridge. Forest staff recommend that visitors with RV’s and trailers leave these at the Wakepish Sno-Park, at the junction of Roads 99 and 25, as parking at Bear Meadows is limited.

The following is a list of approximate one way mileages from Bear Meadows to sites along Forest Road 99:

* To the Blast Edge Viewpoint: 1.5 miles
* To Meta Lake and the Miners Car: 4 miles
* To the Norway Pass Trailhead: 5 miles
* To Cascade Peaks View Point: 6 miles
* To the Independence Pass Trailhead: 7 miles
* To the Harmony Trailhead: 9 miles
* To the Windy Ridge Viewpoint: 11 miles.

The 17-mile Forest Road 99 enters the core of the area devastated by the 1980 eruption, and terminates at the Windy Ridge viewpoint. It offers views of Spirit Lake, the debris avalanche, and the northeast side of the volcano and crater.

In the late 1980’s the road was upgraded, as a result of a major reconstruction effort, to a two lane asphalt standard. Side slopes are often very steep, and much of the outside lane was constructed on fill material of deep pumice soils. Once the snow melts out in the late spring, there are typically small slides and minor damage to the shoulders of this road. These slides can normally be cleared through routine maintenance activities.

Heavy snow this past winter delayed the typical opening date, normally between Memorial Day and mid-June. Fall storms also battered the area, which resulted in emergency declarations for surrounding counties. This may have triggered or accelerated the failures.

Forest Road 25 on the east side of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument opened recently. This road provides key north/south access from Randle and Packwood to Swift Reservoir and other areas on the south end, and also on the east side of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Drivers and motorcycle riders should use caution on Forest Road 25 as some road areas may have settled; and rocks and other debris may be on the road bed. The road offers several views of Mount St. Helens. Secondary roads off of Forest Road 25 may have snowdrifts, fallen trees, and rocks.

On the north end of Forest Road 25, the Woods Creek bridge project will enable coho salmon to access additional habitat in Woods Creek. A temporary bridge bypass allows drivers to access Forest Road 25 with only minor delays at milepost 4, south of Randle, Washington. This bridge project has begun.

Looks like one of my favourite motorcycle road will be out of commission for some time. Too Bad.


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