Glenwood Springs, CO

Glenwood Canyon repairs nearly complete after devastating 2021 mudslides

Claire Cleveland
Glenwood Canyon after the 2021 mudslides.Colorado Department of Transportation

By Claire Cleveland / NewsBreak

(Glenwood Springs, CO.) Glenwood Canyon is on its way to full recovery after the 2021 mudslides. The Colorado Department of Transportation and its contractor partners have nearly completed debris removal from the Colorado River.

According to the Department, the work is part of several efforts to prepare I70 for spring runoff and summer debris flows. Soon, CDOT crews will continue rockfall removal in the canyon and repair rockfall fencing.

“CDOT has made tremendous progress in recovery from the 2021 mudflows,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “From fixing the road in record time to removing material from the river, as well as rockfall work and other mitigation, it’s been a team effort."

In 2020, the Grizzly Creek Fire burned across Glenwood Canyon, creating a burn scar that was prone to mudslides. Climate change is increasing the risk of both extreme wildfires and subsequent rainfall.

Last year, slides plagued Glenwood Canyon. One slide trapped more than 100 motorists in the canyon. The damage disrupted travel for weeks forcing semi-trailers and seasonal travelers to detour through smaller towns.

Colorado issued a disaster declaration directing funds toward repairs in the canyon that are still ongoing.

“The importance of partnerships in emergency operations cannot be understated,” said Kevin Klein, director of the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “The response to the 2021 mudflows and rockslides demonstrated the value of our partnerships. Exercises help strengthen these relationships making us better prepared for future incidents.”

Be prepared

This year, Interstate 70 will keep safety protocols in place for spring, summer, and fall. The Department advises travelers who want to use rest areas or recreation paths to pay close attention to weather forecasts. If there’s rain in the forecast, be prepared for the canyon to close.

Alternate routes

CDOT asks motorists to be familiar with the recommended alternate routes. Travelers should also have an emergency kit in their car with water, snacks, a flashlight and a blanket. Weather conditions in the canyon can change quickly.

If a safety closure of I-70 in Glenwood Canyon is expected to last longer than two hours, CDOT recommends a northern alternate route using Colorado 9, U.S. 40 and Colorado 13. Motorists should anticipate delays on the alternate route due to additional detour traffic and possible construction or maintenance projects.

WESTBOUND I-70: Motorists coming from the Denver metro area or Interstate 25 can travel westbound on I-70 to Silverthorne, then turn north onto CO 9. In Kremmling, travelers should turn onto westbound U.S. 40 towards Steamboat Springs. After reaching Craig, motorists can return south via CO 13 towards Rifle. Access to I-70 westbound is at Rifle.

EASTBOUND I-70: Motorists traveling eastbound from Utah or Grand Junction can reach the Denver Metro area by traveling the route above in reverse. CO 13 north to US 40 east to CO 9 south.

CDOT strongly discourages travelers from using highways south of I-70 as an alternate route, due to extensive construction closures on U.S. 50. CDOT also asks that motorists not use Cottonwood Pass Road (in Eagle/Garfield counties), Hagerman Pass, Eagle/Thomasville Road or other county or forest service roads in Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties as a detour. These roads are not built for heavy traffic or oversize commercial vehicles. Many of these four-wheel-drive roads also do not have cell phone coverage.

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Claire Cleveland is a Denver-based freelance writer with a background in health and science reporting. She's covered the pandemic extensively and local news in Colorado. Previously, Claire was a reporter and producer for Colorado Public Radio.

Denver, CO

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