River retreats after damage in Garfield

A cabin ripped from its foundation is partially awash in Main Elk Creek north of New Castle on Monday. The swollen creek and other tributaries to the Colorado River have caused significant flood damage from New Castle to Rulison in central Garfield County.

A cabin has become the latest casualty of high waters in Garfield County, even as the Colorado River has subsided somewhat after seriously damaging a popular bike path there.

Wyatt Keesbery, a district foreman with the county’s Road and Bridge Department, said what he believes was a recreational cabin fell into Main Elk Creek north of New Castle on Monday morning. That’s the same creek that earlier took out a private bridge,  temporarily eliminating access to a residence on the other side until neighbors provided an alternative access road.

Tributaries to the Colorado River in Garfield County have done a significant amount of the flood damage in the county so far, including to county roads. County Roads 320 and 317 south of the river between Rulison and Rifle remain closed, in the first case because road erosion and in the second because Beaver Creek washed out a culvert.

High water in Rifle Creek had temporarily closed Rifle Mountain Park — a world-class rock-climbing area — and the county road going through it north of Rifle, but those closures have ended.

A recent easing in the level of the Colorado River has reduced the threat to a county bridge crossing the Colorado River near Silt, after the river came within about 2 feet of forcing its closure, Keesbery said.

“All of the creeks are coming down, the Colorado River has come down about a foot within a week, so we’re hopefully expecting more of the same,” he said.

Meanwhile, it still could be a few weeks before the Colorado Department of Transportation is able to fully assess the damage to the recreation path through Glenwood Canyon, said agency spokeswoman Nancy Shanks. However, the agency knows some concrete sections have been washed away by the Colorado River. It also believes some trail retaining wall damage has occurred, but the water isn’t yet low enough to be certain.

Once a full assessment can be made, the agency will try to determine when repairs can be made and the well-traveled path can be reopened, Shanks said.

Whether the Colorado River has peaked yet remains unclear, but both Shanks and Keesbery said forecasts suggest the recent, more moderate river levels should linger for a while.

The high runoff forced temporary closure of part of the Glenwood Springs Vapor Caves spa. Massages, mineral baths and other services were still available.

CDOT on Monday reopened a bridge over the Colorado River in Dotsero, east of Glenwood Canyon after it was closed because water approaching its girders.

Also Monday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increased water releases from Ruedi Reservoir above Basalt because of a significant recent increase in runoff into the reservoir.


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