High runoff causes extreme flooding, bridge damage in Little Cottonwood Canyon trails


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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — A bridge on a popular hiking trail is closed due to extreme flooding and damage.

Part of the White Pine Trail Bridge was washed out by high and strong runoff. The U.S. Forest Service closed the bridge June 14.

"At the end of last week when we started getting reports of people running into scary situations, so we actually closed down the bridge," said Zinnia Wilson, recreation program manager.

The bridge was covered by overflowing water on June 14. The bridge is a short walk from the White Pine trailhead. Multiple signs are posted stating: "Bridge closed."

The bridge will remain temporarily closed through Aug. 14, but Wilson said the Forest Service plans to reopen it sooner.

"It was very much a public safety thing," she said. "We will open as soon as the hazard is reduced enough that we feel we can let people make their own choices out there."

Taking a toll

She said two years in a row of high runoff took a toll on the bridge and have impacted other trails.

"A few years ago, a channel started to sneak around the back side of it, but the last two flood runoff seasons, it's really just taking a bigger and bigger bite out of the bank," Wilson said.

Part of the dirt trail is eroded, and rebar is exposed. There also other pieces of hardware sticking out.

"We're working on a short-term patch to bridge the gap between this and actual final fix," Wilson said.

Part of the White Pine Trail Bridge was washed out by the high and strong runoff. The U.S. Forest Service Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Salt Lake Ranger District closed the bridge June 14.
Part of the White Pine Trail Bridge was washed out by the high and strong runoff. The U.S. Forest Service Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Salt Lake Ranger District closed the bridge June 14. (Photo: Shelby Lofton, KSL-TV)

Several hikers on the trail Tuesday navigated around the closure. Water levels had lowered since the previous Friday.

"I thought it added a fun kind of adventure aspect to it," said hiker JT Wistrcill. "I'm sure for families that makes it more difficult. I saw a lot of young kids going up on the walk. I'm surprised they were able to kind of get over. I know if I was a parent, I'd be nervous about having my kid do it."

He said it was crazy to saw the trail conditions as they were in mid-June.

"We saw icicles up there even, so it's crazy how cold it is up top over there," Wistrcill said. "The waterfall is really strong."

Donut Falls trail

Wilson said a bridge on the Donut Falls trail also washed away. Hikers should follow signs for an alternate route there.

She said she understands hikers who may feel frustrated by the signs.

"I get it; I'm a hiker too," Wilson said. "I like to take my family up to Donut Falls. Just use your head out there. The water's fast. It's dangerous. There was an accident in the Provo River recently people may have paid attention to, and very soon we'll have safe access to all of these trails again."

Wilson said there's already people brainstorming how they'll patch up this section of the bridge that will last for a couple of years. They want to renovate it for more long term use, but that will take years of planning and funding to accomplish.

"It'll take engineering, support, fundraising and grants and all that, but we'll get there," she said.

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Shelby Lofton

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