Flooding, sinkhole lead to closures of remote highways to Paonia, Gateway | AspenTimes.com

Flooding, sinkhole lead to closures of remote highways to Paonia, Gateway

The sinkhole and related damage as of Wednesday morning.
CDOT/Courtesy photo

Remote Gateway could become more remote on Friday thanks to flooding, and the drive from the Roaring Fork to Paonia got longer with the emergence of a large sinkhole in the road between McClure Pass and the town.

Highway 141 will likely be closed between Naturita and Gateway on Friday evening due to forecasted high river flows. If the river reaches expected levels, the Colorado Department of Transportation plans to close the highway at 5 p.m.

For safety, CDOT has determined that the bridge structure at Roc Creek should be closed to traffic while peak water flows are occurring. The structure is 27.5 miles north of Naturita at Mile Point 88.5. 

The highway will remain closed until the flood danger has subsided. This closure is dependent on various factors, including snowmelt and reservoir releases. The public will be alerted once the official closure is in place, CDOT said. As flow amounts fluctuate, the bridge may require additional closures.

Here’s another angle of the sinkhole and related damage from earlier in the week.
CDOT / Courtesy Photo

“At this point in time, we do not have an alternate route in place or a guesstimate as to how long the closure might last,” said Communications Specialist Adair Christensen.

“River flows in the area have not been observed at these levels in 18 years,” Regional Transportation Director Julie Constan said. “With the flood event expected to peak this Friday, we are taking pro-active and cautionary measures at this particular bridge. Engineers and maintenance personnel will be assessing the structural integrity throughout this high-flow event.”

The National Weather Service has issued a flood advisory for the Dolores River due to the increased release of water from McPhee Reservoir. The flood advisory also includes the Dolores and San Miguel rivers due to heavy runoff from snowmelt.

The flood advisory will in place until further notice and covers the counties of Montezuma, Dolores, San Miguel, and Montrose, NWS officials said.

Sinkhole north of Paonia

A safety closure is in place for a section of Highway 133 north of Paonia. The highway is closed in both directions between mile points 14 and 19. The safety closure is due to a large sinkhole and road damage.

The sinkhole started on Saturday, April 29, and has significantly damaged the roadway, CDOT officials said. Spring runoff is a factor in the conditions leading to the sinkhole developing. There is also a damaged culvert near the roadway. CDOT is pursuing temporary ways of safely re-opening the roadway, but those options will be limited due to ongoing spring runoff and nearby terrain.

“As of yesterday, it was still growing,” Elise Thatcher, CDOT Northwest Colorado regional communications manager, said on Thursday. “It expands from one side of the highway to the other. We cannot see all the damage because of the high water in the area. In order to see the extent, the water needs to go down, and we will just have to wait until the water recedes.”

Thatcher said both sides of Highway 133 around McClure Pass are prone to sinkholes due to the composition of the soil in the area.

“Crews regularly monitor this area, and we were on high alert,” she said.

During the closure, CDOT is coordinating with partner agencies and local residents to allow extremely limited travel in the area, including for emergency services, according to CDOT. In the event of an emergency, local residents should call 911 for assistance, officials said.

Know before you go

CDOT urges travelers to “know before you go,” with the following information resources:


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