GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – Rangers with the U.S. Forest Service called a halt to travel along an unpaved mountain road Friday as would-be Interstate 70 travelers, frustrated by the highway’s closure since Monday due to the Grizzly Creek Fire, tried to make their own way through Colorado’s wilderness.
The Eagle-Thomasville Road, also known as Crooked Creek Pass and Forest Service Road 400, is closed until further notice.
“We understand how difficult the closure of I-70 is,” said Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Kevin Warner. “Unfortunately, this mostly unpaved road with narrow switchbacks is not an appropriate alternative. Drivers were ignoring the signs cautioning against using this road as an alternate route, forcing us to close the road.”
Rangers cited excessive traffic, multiple accidents, and a high number of vehicle inappropriate for navigating the road as the issues forcing its closure.
There were no reports of serious injuries, but the USFS’s David Boyd said he was aware of fender-benders and rollover accidents, as well as drivers trying to repair flat tires in the middle of the small roadway.
Rangers said a few of the travelers were planning to recreate at Sylvan Lake State Park, but most of the traffic was headed further south to connect with Frying Pan Road and thus access a way back north eventually to Glenwood Springs where they could return to I-70’s high-speed pavement.
The Grizzly Creek Fire forced the immediate closure of a 30-mile stretch of the interstate along its split-level course through the steep, narrow walls of Glenwood Canyon. Rafters floating the Eagle River witnessed the fire’s beginnings and its rapid growth. The blaze has torched approximately 20,000 acres as of Saturday morning.
Independence Pass was closed Wednesday, also due to high volume and unsafe conditions. Late Friday afternoon, the Colorado Department of Transportation announced a limited re-opening.
CO 82 EB/WB: Road open between Tagert Lake Rd and Carlton Tunnel Rd. CO-82 Independence Pass: Oversized and overweight vehicles are strictly prohibited from using the Pass at any time due to narrow and winding roads and steep inclines. Absolutely no… https://t.co/KN6CcGlyuh
— CDOT (@ColoradoDOT) August 14, 2020
The best detours around the Grizzly Creek Fire’s interstate closure are Highways 285 and 50, according to CDOT. But the agency also pleaded for weekend travelers to simply avoid the high country altogether.