As Rocky Mountain National Park and highway officials ponder what to do about reopening the Alluvial Fan area and Old Fall River Road following the destruction wrought by the September floods that scoured so much of Colorado’s Front Range, it is worth noting that Bear Lake Road easily survived the floods.
Salvation came from the two-phase reconstruction of this popular, year-round road that began with the upper 4.3 miles in 2003-04, while the lower 5.1 miles was begun in 2012 and largely completed by the time the rains came. It involved resurfacing the road, building or rebuilding retaining walls, improving drainage and widening sections to make snowplow operations safer and more efficient.
The timely reconstruction also protected the road from the severe damage suffered elsewhere. In addition to silt and rock depositions here and there on hiking trails, the floods destroyed or severely damaged a number of bridges.
The Park Service to-do list therefore includes, but is not limited to, bridges across or to Boulder Brook, Ypsilon Lake, Ouzel Falls, Ouzel Lake and above Bridal Veil Falls, Alluvial Fan area, Bridges to the following campsites were also impacted Odessa Lake/Spur Trail, Glacier Gorge, Cutbank, Goldenbanner, Rabbit Ears and MacGregor Mountain, plus all bridges to all campsites accessed from the North Fork Trail.
Rocky Mountain has endured a disastrous year. The Fern Lake Fire, which sprang to life from an illegal campfire in steep and rugged Forest Canyon area on October 9, 2012, finally was confirmed to have burned itself out a year later. Meanwhile, the sequester that shut the federal government down from October 1 to October 16 meant that the national parks were also closed during the end of the foliage and elk-bugling seasons.
Updates regarding road and trails closures are available by calling the Rocky Mountain National Park Information Office at 970-586-1206.