Monday, December 6, 2010

Alluvial Fan Nature Hike

Distance: 0.5 miles
Elevation: 8,557 ft - 8,640 ft
Elevation Gain: 83 ft

In the center of the Alluvial Fan

The Alluvial Fan is a short but scenic trail in Rocky Mountain National Park suitable for elders and children. The trail crosses an area of waterfalls, boulders, and Aspens that formed when the Lawn Lake Dam broke upstream on July 15, 1982. Shortly after 5:30 AM, water and debris tumbled down the Roaring River Valley. People camping along the river reported that the water rose 22-30 ft. One camper in this area was killed.

Fall color amongst the rocks

As the water exited the narrow river valley and spread out into Horseshoe Park, it overran a campground and killed a few more people. Logs, house-sized boulders, and sand was dumped into a large pile.

Looking at the debris from the west side

The water then traveled toward the town of Estes Park, the gateway community to Rocky Mountain National Park. It took out a small hydroelectric power plant and fish hatchery before sending a river of mud through the downtown area. Finally, the water flowed into the Big Thompson River and dumped into Lake Estes. Total cost of the accident was $31M.

The river is much calmer now

Today, a walk across this debris field is both scenic and sobering. Tourists gather amongst the rocks, water either roars or trickles through the area depending upon the season, and trees have grown up along the edges. The route has minimal elevation gain and winds through the debris. It is 0.5 miles between the east and west Alluvial Fan parking lots and roughly 0.25 miles from either lot to the center of the fan. From the top of the mound there are also great views of the Endovalley/Horseshore Park area.

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