The west side of the popular backcountry White Rim Road at Canyonlands National Park has been closed due to river flooding, National Park Service officials said late last week. The flooding, brought on by rising water levels in the Green River, is expected to continue throughout the week, according to river flow forecasts from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center.
On Wednesday morning, May 18, park service officials announced that the Shafer Trail west of Moab was impassable due to heavy rains and hail that hit the region that morning. The closure was expected to last at least through Wednesday and possibly into Thursday, according to the news release.
“The current conditions [on the trail] consist of a slick roadway and multiple standing puddles,” park service officials said.
The White Rim road is closed from the southern base of Hardscrabble Hill to the park boundary, making a complete White Rim loop trip impossible, said Paul Henderson, assistant superintendent for Arches and Canyonlands national parks near Moab. The road will remain closed until flood waters recede, officials said.
“With the forecast river flows on the Green River as the spring runoff continues, the closure could very well last for several weeks,” Henderson said in a news release issued Friday, May 13. “There are flooding issues along some portions of the White Rim when flows exceed 20,000 [cubic feet per second]. The flow was approximately 23,000 cfs when the flooding occurred.”
As of May 10th the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center was predicting a 50 percent chance that the Green River will peak at 46,000 cfs this year and a 90 percent chance that flows will reach at least 38,000 cfs, Henderson noted.
“The last time that flows exceeded 38,000 cfs was in 1983, flows above 46,000 cfs have not occurred since 1922,” he said.
Park Service officials said a number of variables, especially upcoming weather conditions, will determine both the peak and the duration of the high flows.
“Warm weather and rapid snowmelt could produce very high volumes of relatively short duration,” Henderson said. “Cooler weather and a continued pattern of late-season storms could produce somewhat lower overall flows but of a longer duration.”
Canyonlands National Park will regularly update the park’s web page, www.nps.gov/cany, to advise visitors of conditions on the White Rim as well as boating conditions in the park, the news release stated.
Visitors planning a trip to Canyonlands over the next few weeks are advised to check current conditions via the park’s website. Those interested may also follow the current weather conditions in the park on Twitter at www.twitter.com/canyonlandsnps.
Read more: Moab Times-Independent – Rains high water force closure of White Rim road Shafer Trail