A heavy three-hour rainstorm on Thursday damaged back-country roads in Canyonlands National Park. The Needles District to the south recorded .95 inches of rain and the Island in the Sky District to the north recorded 1.14 inches.
“Additional rain may have dropped,” said Neal Herbert, visual information specialist for the Southeast Utah Group of National Parks. “That was just during the three-hour storm.”
Backcountry vehicles were unable to complete the White Rim Road loop in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands until Monday afternoon. Crews repaired a section of the road at Upheaval Wash and Taylor Canyon. The White Rim Road loop is open, but it is rough.
Taylor Canyon is still impassable and is closed to traffic.
“There were many years where we didn’t have marked closures, but in recent years we’ve had more of it,” said Neal Herbert, visual information specialist for the Southeast Utah Group of Parks.
There were road closures in 2011 due to high water from the winter’s heavy snow pack.
“Mineral Bottom road washed out in a similar manner with an intense storm in a very small area in 2010,” Herbert said.
Shafer Trail and Mineral Bottom in the Island of the Sky District are open, but high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles with good all-terrain or mud tires recommended due to ruts.
In the Needles District Salt Creek/Horse Canyon is passable, but conditions are challenging. Drivers should expect deep sand, up to three feet of water, quicksand and large boulders.
“You don’t see Salt Creek flood to this degree very often. This doesn’t even happen once a year. It takes the right storm,” Herbert said.
The Colorado River Overlook is impassable due to standing water and debris. The access road to Elephant Hill is passable to four-wheel drive only, but conditions beyond are unknown.
Park rangers recommend traveling in groups of two or more vehicles, with winches, in order to facilitate self-rescue. Rangers are unable to winch vehicles out. Visitors caught in the backcountry with disabled vehicles can expect commercial towing fees in excess of $1,000.
Most backcountry roads in Canyonlands require high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles. Visitors are encouraged to check in at the Needles Visitor Center for permit availability and current conditions.
Park rangers also recommend carrying at least one full-size spare tire, extra gas, extra water, a shovel, a high-lift jack and chains for all four tires, especially from October through April.