Torrential rains, and the flooding and rockfall they produced, have forced closure of the Denali Park Road beyond the Eielson Visitor Center in Denali National Park in Alaska.
In a release Thursday afternoon, park officials said the road was closed at 4:30 a.m. beyond Wonder Lake due to flooding in the Kantishna area at Eureka and Friday Creeks (which normally flow at very low levels across the park road) and at the north end of Wonder Lake. By 8:45 a.m. park managers closed the road beyond the Eielson Visitor Center due to significant rockfall at the Eielson Bluffs, approximately 1-2 miles west of the visitor center, spokeswoman Kris Fister added.
"Guests and employees at private lodges in Kantishna and over a dozen park employees are currently marooned at the western end of the park road, but all are safe and accounted for," she wrote in the release. "The Denali Backcountry Lodge, which is located at the end of the road near the airstrip, evacuated their guests and staff to higher ground near another lodge this morning as water began encroaching into buildings. Their buses are not able to continue east as Eureka Creek is impassable, flowing across the road at an extremely high rate and carrying significant debris. Guests at other lodges have not had to evacuate. The Kantishna airstip is currently not useable by fixed-wing aircraft, as a large portion is underwater. Park managers are working on contingency plans for evacuating park visitors via helicopter if the road continues to remain impassable."
Road crews were working to clear and repair the causeway (north end of Wonder Lake) section of the road, which was impassable to anything except heavy equipment, according to Ms. Fister. They will then move west to clear the road at Eureka Creek, she said.
Campers at the Wonder Lake Campground were given the option of leaving on the single camper bus allowed into the area Thursday afternoon, but some remained in camp. There was no danger of flooding there as the campground is on high ground.