Denali Road reopens

Pretty Rocks Landslide at Mile 45.4, April of this year. Removing a debris that covered the road after the surrounding soil slumped and flowed across it.

Denali National Park and Preserve reopened the Park Road at 5 a.m. Friday, though announced that continued rain has created a “dynamic situation” and warned visitors to proceed with caution on both the road and while hiking on trails.

According to a news release, crews spent Thursday assessing various critical points along the road and concluded that the road is in a stable condition.

“Travel restrictions were not made because of any singular event, but out of an abundance of caution,” said Superintendent Don Striker, via news release. “Since August 1st, the Park Road has experienced a number of rockfalls and debris slides beyond mile 30 that have periodically disrupted vehicle traffic, and given the weather forecast for the coming weeks, we wanted to be proactive about ensuring visitor safety and the road’s continued stability.”

The release states that weather stations in some parts of the park have measured up to 12 inches of rainfall during the past week. Several weeks of consistent and heavy rain have left the road surface and surrounding soils overly saturated, posing an increased risk of landslides and debris flows.

“When the road reaches this condition, crews are spending most of their time solving problems and not managing future risks,” said Roads Foreman Paul Franke, via release. “Allowing road crews the time and space to assess the entire road, means we feel more confident we can avoid a more damaging event that would have a larger impact on road access and visitor safety.”

Though continued rain is forecast for the coming weeks, crews said they believe they are in a good position to ensure the road remains stable. 

Campgrounds are currently open and there is access to all trails in the park, but the public is advised that some trails have seen water damage and debris flows, and that rivers are flowing exceptionally high, making crossings potentially dangerous. Trail crews are working across the park to address these issues.

“We feel confident in the current state of the road, but calls for more rain in the coming week means we’re facing a dynamic situation in which we may have to revisit restricting access along the road,” Striker said, via release “Crews will work hard to try and prevent that from happening, but we ask that the public be flexible and consider exploring other areas of the park should this occur.”

The park will continue to release information as it becomes available and the public is encouraged to check the Denali website for any updates or alerts at bit.ly/23UWchJ

“We’d like to thank our Joint Venture partners for all their assistance in dealing with this closure,” Striker said via release. “Though brief, these events can have a large impact on people, and Joint Venture did an excellent job of working with us to shuttle visitors to different areas of the park, adapting their tours and allowing people to still experience the open portion of the road, and making sure people who were out in the backcountry could be shuttled back to the entrance.”

Park Rangers are available at visitor contact areas to offer updated information on trail conditions and other assistance to visitors. 

Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459 7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors

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