Tag Archives: road

First high water event this fall

The first big fall rain event of the year swept through Washington on Oct 20, 2016 with the river reaching a peak level of 14,500 cfs and staying close to that for almost 3 hours. The storm caused no apparent damage either along the paved portion of the road or on the gravel section to Dingford Creek and Goldmyer hotsprings.

After a severe series of storms in the fall of 2015 this year has been relatively calm so far with no sudden spring thaws. The previous significant river flow peaked at only 11,800 cfs at the TANW1 gage on February 15, 2016.
20161020TANW1RiverGage

20160903MineCreekLogJamBefore

Mine Creek log jam before the first high water this fall. It’s unusual for this river eddy spot to have so few logs stranded on the gravel bar.

20160903MineCreekLogJamAfter

The log jam at Mine Creek was refilled with log debris and rearranged again as it is with every high water event

20161013GreenRidgeCreekDry

Green Ridge creek was surprisingly still dry in early October

20161020GreenRidgeCreekFlowing

Green Ridge creek flowing strongly again after recent heavy rains

20161021DingfordFalls

Dingford Creek falls is in full fall roaring mode

Road paving nearly completed

In September, 2016 the remaining section of Middle Fork road was paved, from Valley Camp to Champion Beach. A short section at the problematic cliffs near Champion Beach will be finished in 2017 under a new contract. It’s not a smooth drive all the way to the Taylor River bridge.

Paving completed in 2016

Paving completed in 2016

More miles paved in August

In the last 2 weeks of August, 3.5 more miles of the Middle Fork road were paved, from Champion Beach to Big Blowout Creek. Weather permitting, project management expects to pave the rest of the road to Valley Camp before the end of construction for this year on October 31, 2016.

2016augpaving

3.5 miles paved in August, 2016


20160831NewPaving01

New pavement in progress with asphalt trucks coming out

20160831NewPaving02

Second layer of asphalt being applied

20160831NewPaving03

A worker cleans years of accumulated cruft from the concrete bridge rails

20160903NewPaving04

Cleaned concrete bridge

20160903NewPaving05

New pavement by rock outcrop before Wise Creek

20160903NewPaving06

Newly paved approach to Bessemer Gate

20160903NewPaving07

Paved wiggle in road just after the Bessemer Gate

20160903NewPaving08

Newly paved pullout at upper Oxbow Loop

20160903NewPaving09

Newly paved pullout at Russian Butte view

20160903NewPaving10

Newly paved pullout at Pratt River Bar

Gates and locks vandalized

During the last week three of the Middle Fork gates and/or locks were vandalized. The Bessemer Gate (DNR) was bent out of shape and hanging open until it was partially repaired and the lock replace.

20160220BessemerGateDamage

The Bessemer Gate is mostly back together but these bars were pulled away from the hinge post.

The left-side lock on the Taylor Campground gate was removed and was still missing as of February 21. It may have been cut off twice.
20160220TaylorCampgroundGate

The lock was cut off the left Taylor Campground gate and the signs were tagged. The graffiti was quickly removed by volunteers.

The lock was also cut off the Dingford gate — quite a trick as located in a hard to access spot inside a sturdy metal post. No damage to the Dingford gate itself was observed and the lock has been replaced.
20160220DingfordGate

The Dingford Gate lock was removed, but a replacement was in place quickly


In addition the cable car just downstream of the TANW1 river gage was removed by the USGS because nearly every time they came out the lock had been cut and the cable car was stranded in mid-span. This has been going on for several years and the USGS started locking the cable car in 2012. In the future the river gage engineers will us a remote controlled device to calibrate the gage by measuring water flow at various depths and locations across the river. This is what used to be done in a more manual process by lowering a flow meter from the cable car.
20160220TANW1CableCarGone

The TANW1 cable car has been removed

20130215TANW1Calibration

USGS engineer measuring river flow to calibrate the TANW1 gage

20131203StrandedCableCar

One of many times the TANW1 calibration cable car was stranded mid-span by vandals cutting the lock and setting it loose

Sitka spruce tree blocks road

A windstorm on the evening of January 28, 2016 was the final blow for a large rotting Sitka Spruce tree by the Bessemer Road gate, about 7 miles up the Middle Fork road. It fell across the road, completely blocking all access to the upper valley. Two early arrivals parked on the side of the road and did their planned bike ride or hike from there. But a couple heading for Goldmyer Hot Springs were determined to get through so drove back home to get a chain saw and try to get enough of the tree cut out to drive through. Soon after they started working other locals that often help with tree clearing showed up and steady progress was made clearing the 3-foot diameter tree. After about an hour a 2-person King County road crew arrived with bigger chainsaws and a truck with a winch. They were able to cut through a healthier part of the tree and drag a large section out of the way. Normally King County is not responsible for road clearing because the paving project is not done, but they came out because they were concerned that people farther up the valley might be stranded. A path was finally cleared by about 3 PM.

20160129SitkaSpruceDown01

Big Sitka Spruce blowdown by the Bessemer Road junction

20160129SitkaSpruceDown02

Vehicles headed up the valley are blocked

20160129SitkaSpruceDown03

Volunteers start cutting through the rotten and splintered lower section

20160129SitkaSpruceDown04

A King County crew showed up with bigger chainsaws and cleared a bigger and heavier section

20160129SitkaSpruceDown05

By 3 PM a path was cleared enough for vehicles to pass

On February 5 another King County crew equipped with a big excavator returned to the spot to complete the clearing.
20160220SitkaSpruceDown06

On February 5 the tree is completely cleared


DNR hosts Teneriffe trailhead forum

On January 26, 2016 the local DNR staff hosted a neighborhood forum to discuss early stage plans for a new trailhead at the base of Mount Teneriffe. The DNR had previously met with selected neighbors and scheduled a previous forum that was lightly attended because a strong windstorm hit the area that day. This event drew about 40 people, the higher attendance probably due to an article about the meeting in a local newspaper.

20160126TeneriffeTrailheadPlans01

Neighbors filter in as the DNR staff prepares to start the meeting

After a brief overview, Doug McClelland of the local DNR office fielded questions and concerns from the audience for over an hour and half. Doug emphasized that the DNR is not trying to draw more recreation related traffic up the narrow SE Mount Si Road, rather it is trying to solve a problem of inadequate parking at the school bus turn-around as the Mount Teneriffe trails become more popular. This Mount Si NRCA project is only one part of a comprehensive Snoqualmie Corridor Recreation Plan including DNR lands on Tiger Mountain, the Raging River valley, Rattlesnake Mountain, and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie NRCA. Most of the trailheads being developed are close to I-90 and do not involve hikers walking or driving through a residential area. That makes this trailhead particularly sensitive and neighbors from the affected area were not shy to voice their concerns.

Issues

  • Parking and traffic on SE Mt Si Road and in nearby neighborhoods. A few spots along the road are legal to park on, but parking in areas where it’s prohibited only incurs a $20 ticket which most felt is not enough of a deterrent.
  • Safety concerns due to hikers walking along the road when the Mt Si parking lot is full. There are no sidewalks and the shoulder is narrow so the hikers often walk in the traffic lanes
  • Increased traffic on a service level 4 road that receives only minimal maintenance. Most of these issues must ultimately be addressed by King County, but integrated planning by all parties and a coordinated request will probably yield the best results.
  • Concerns about visitors trespassing on private property and inappropriate behavior. One resident found visitors having a picnic on her lawn. Some hikers feel free to change clothes in the middle of the street. Ungated parking lots invite activities unrelated to hiking, including some users frequently staying overnight.
  • Concerns about levels of police patrols and enforcement. This is another issue that extends well beyond the DNR, but should be addressed as part of the plan.

20160126TeneriffeTrailheadPlans04

Doug McClelland fields neighbors questions and concerns


Mitigations

These problems are not going to be easy to solve, but Doug emphasized that there is good cooperation between the various levels of government and other groups funding the projects. Visitation levels have been increasing for years and doing nothing is not a solution. Some of the possible mitigations discussed were

  • Installing a vending machine for purchase a Discover Pass to reduce pressure to park outside the designated areas
  • Continuing the experiment with a shuttle service started in the summer of 2015. It got a lot of publicity but very little use. Ultimately a shuttle service will be needed for both the Mount Si and Middle Fork areas because there will not be enough parking for the anticipated demand. The Middle Fork paving project actually reduces the number of possible parking places because the road is being raised to improve drainage and this results in steep shoulders.
  • Avoid building new trails beyond those that currently exist in the Mount Si NRCA and encourage use of trails in other nearby areas with better access.
  • Consider electronic surveillance to help safety and law enforcement. Automatically monitoring how full the lots are and making the information available online could direct hikers to less busy areas.
  • Improve signage for parking, pass requirements and purchase, and other nearby hiking options

20160126TeneriffeTrailheadPlans05

Attendees got a chance to visit with the local DNR staff after the meeting


Concept Plans

Work on the Teneriffe trailhead and other Snoqualmie Corridor facilities is being funded by a $100,000 grant – RCO 14-1841 Snoqualmie Corridor Facilities Design. The initial thinking when applying for the grant was to build a new parking lot uphill from the school bus turn around where hikers currently park.

2014TeneriffeTrailheadConcept

An early trailhead concept from the grant application showed a multi-loop parking lot uphill from the school bus turn around, near the water tower.

Work done as part of the grant evaluated the possible trailhead locations more carefully and the preferred site shifted to area B shown below. The DNR staff stressed that these are still concept drawings. Actual plans require significantly more study to evaluate wildlife, drainage, traffic and other impacts.
20160126TeneriffeTrailheadPlans03

Locations evaluated for a new trailhead. Relatively flat ground and distance from streams and wetlands are advantageous which made the C and D sites unworkable.

20160126TeneriffeTrailheadPlans02

A comparison of the two most likely sites. Site A was initially favored but turned out to have steeper slopes and more difficult drainage problems than site B, the current front runner.

Related news

01/11/2016 Living Snoqualmie – New Hiking Trailhead, 70 Car Parking Lot Planned for Mt. Si Road, Residents Voice Concerns

Halloween High Water

A heavy rain storm on Halloween weekend that dropped 4 1/4 inches of rain over 2 days resulted in a peak flow of 22,400 cfps on the Middle Fork river. The rain was steady without a heavy downpour at any one time and there was no snow to melt in the mountains, factors which helped avoid major damage to the road. But flows of ~20,000 cfps were sustained for 5 hours. The Taylor river was especially wild — a log jam formed just above the turn off to Dingford Creek and caused part of the river to flow over the spur to the Taylor River trailhead. Later reports indicate that SUV style vehicles should still be able to negotiate the trench eroded across the road (see the last photo below).
20151031TANW1Graph


20151031HalloweenHighWater03

The Taylor River overflowed it’s banks and ran across the spur road to the trailhead in two places.

20151031HalloweenHighWater02

Gateway Bridge still safely above the water

20151031HalloweenHighWater04

The log jam at the top of the picture restricted the flow of the Taylor River causing water to flow across the road

20151031HalloweenHighWater05

The log jam is at the left of this picture in front of the tree island. The tree with the huge root ball on the right came down the river while I was standing here.

20151031HalloweenHighWater06

A creek flowing down an unusual spot along the road to the Dingford Creek trailhead. Normally this water would come down the drainage in the background.

20151031HalloweenHighWater07

Dingford Creek falls from the bridge. The spray was so intense it was impossible to get a clear shot.

20151031HalloweenHighWater08

Compare to flow level in late summer

20151101HalloweenHighWater09

Taylor River trailhead washout on November 1 after the high water receded. Photo by Bill Davis.

Related stories

  • Cliff Mass Weather Blog – Serious Precipitation and Flooding is Probable During the Next 72 Hours
  • Living Snoqualmie – Heavy Rain, Wind Roll into Snoqualmie Valley; River Rising, Flood Warning, Wind Advisory Issued
  • SnoValley Star – County issues Phase III flood alert for Snoqualmie River

Two More Miles Paved

2 more miles of the Middle Fork road were paved in early August, 2015 between the Big Blowout Creek and MP 10.6 bridges. This video was taken the first weekend after the paving was completed.

20150731StartOfNewPavement

Big Blowout Creek crossing with new pavement starting from the far end of the bridge

Severe rain storm closes Middle Fork road

In early January the northwest was the recipient of another atmospheric river delivering moisture from the central Pacific. Cliff mass wrote “As much as 13 inches on the coast, with many locations getting 5-8 inches. But less than a quarter of an inch in the rain shadow over parts of Puget Sound and NW Washington. Big totals (4-6 inches) along the western slopes of the Cascades.” Rain gages in the North Bend area recorded over 4 1/2 inches of rain within a 24 hour period and the Middle Fork river responded with the 8th highest recorded flow to-date. Unfortunately the TANW1 gage, which is the only one that measures the Middle Fork in isolation failed midway through the event, but the last measured discharge* was 27,300 cfs at 11:15am, a couple hours after the rain had let up so the actual peak was likely close this value.

20150105RiverAccessUnderWater

Flooded river access by Concrete Bridge

20140105RainMeasurements

Precipitation map for Middle Fork area. The North Bend stations would eventually record 4 1/2 inches of rain on the morning of January 5.

20150105TANW1Gage

Discharge as measured by the TANW1 river gage. Unfortunately the gage failed midway through the storm so the rest of this graph was inferred as a proportionate estimate from downstream gages measuring the combined flow of all three forks.


An event with such high flows would normally have serious consequences for the Middle Fork road. This time was unique in that the Middle Fork paving project had completed the first of three years of work with the last two miles of pavement completed including many new culverts for improved drainage. Most of the new work held up well to the extraordinary water flow levels but a few exceptions resulted in the road subsequently being closed until Memorial Day.

  • The biggest problem was at the newly constructed box culverts at the stream crossings just beyond the CCC trail, otherwise known as Bessequartz Creek. The problems with this creek date back to a landslide on the southeast ridge of Bessemer in the 1998-2003 period that deposited a load of rocks into the drainage. With each major rain event the rocks were moved further downstream, first inundating the road during the massive 2009 flood. This current flood brought down enough rocks and logs to completely block one of the box culverts. The stream then overflowed the road, covering it with small boulders and forming new drainage channels across the recently reconfigured road bed.
    20130601BessemerRidgeLandSlide

    Old landslide scar visible on Bessemer’s southeast ridge

    20150105BessequartzWashout1

    Bessequartz Creek washout

    20150105BessequartzWashout2

    View up Bessequartz Creek showing the rocks and logs that have filled up the previous stream channel and blocked the box culvert. The stream should be draining directly under my feet.

    20150105BessequartzWashout3

    Almost no water is coming through the culvert because it’s blocked on the upstream end. The water has undercut the concrete slats.

    20150105BessequartzWashout4

    View of the Bessequartz Creek washout from the upstream side

  • A second major problem occurred just before the Bessequartz Creek crossing by the CCC trail junction where the road slumped because of a soft and unstable lens of clay under the road bed. The same area has been a problem in previous years as well. The paving plans call for a “deep patch” in this area which will reinforce the upper few feet but will not help with the underlying problem.
    20150125MiddleForkSlump1

    Small road slump and erosion approaching the CCC trail junction

    20150125MiddleForkSlump2

    Road slump by CCC trail junction

    20150125MiddleForkSlump3

    Road slump by CCC trail junction

  • A third issue was a minor road slump just beyond the Bessemer road. This would later be addressed with another “deep patch” of the road bed.
    20150125BessemerGateSlump

    Road slump just past the Bessemer road

  • The road just past the Dingford turnoff up Hell Hill is frequently subjected to runoff and this was no exception.
    20150125HellHillErosion

    Newly eroded gully on the road up Hell Hill

  • The wash at the top of Hell Hill is used by the Forest Service as a source of gravel fill and they got a fresh supply delivered by Garfield Mountain. This time it partially covered logs stored there that were cleared from the right of way as part of the paving project.
    20150125HellHillGravelPit

    Garfield Mountain delivered a fresh round of gravel to the wash at the top of Hell Hill, covering the logs placed there from paving project clearing of the Middle Fork road.

These issues resulted in the closure of the road, ultimately until Memorial Day. The Forest Service’s Facebook announcement stated “The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is closing the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road (Forest Service road 56) for public safety until further notice. The road has recently experienced major storm damage making the road impassable. The Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road will be closed at mile 2.2, near Valley Camp and Mailbox Peak Trailhead. At this time, Federal Highways Administration officials are determining how best to repair the road.”

Related News

* Some time after the event, the USGS retroactively removed TANW1 raw data from the record back to midnight on January 5 because it could not be calibrated. Fortunately, we were able to capture that last morning of measurements and based on experience of observing other high water events it was close to reality even if not up to USGS standards.

Last two miles paved

The last 2 miles of the Middle Fork road were paved in early October, 2014 from the MP 10.6 bridge to the Taylor River campground. The Middle Fork trailhead parking areas were paved at the same time.

20140928TrailheadReadyForPaving

Middle Fork trailhead prepped for paving

Aerial shot of Middle Fork Trailhead (from construction newsletter, courtesy of WFLH)

Middle Fork Trailhead parking lot paved (from construction newsletter, courtesy of ACI)

20141004NewlyPavedTrailhead

Newly paved Middle Fork trailhead parking lot