Follow us:

Northwest Traveler

Travel news, consumer advice and trip reports for the Northwest and beyond.

August 16, 2013 at 11:32 AM

North Cascades Highway closed until at least Monday

Part of the North Cascades Highway vanishes under dirt and rocks, thanks to this mudslide - one of eight that closed the road on Aug. 10. (WSDOT photo)

Part of the North Cascades Highway vanished under dirt and rocks, thanks to this mudslide – one of eight that closed the road on Aug. 10. (WSDOT photo)

The North Cascades Highway is expected to remain closed at least until Monday (Aug. 19) as crews toil to clear landslides, forcing drivers  to take a longer route in and out of the Methow Valley.  And the highway closure is hitting tourism-dependent businesses hard as some visitors cancel trips.

The Washington State Department of Transportation had hoped to reopen the highway this weekend, but crews are dealing with  some boulders as big as passenger cars that have blocked the scenic mountain road, plus mounds of dirt and trees.

The highway closed last weekend after heavy rain and hail storms touched off eight mud slides that buried the road up to 25 feet deep in debris.

With more rain in the forecast this weekend for the area, it’s possible that more landslides could hit the highway, said the Washington State Department of Transportation, keeping it closed even longer. Crews are working through the weekend and updates will be posted at the highway website.

The road closure is costing  Methow Valley businesses money.  It struck at the height of the summer tourist season, when visitors come to hike, bike and relax in the scenic rural valley (although there still is access to some popular trailheads on the highway).

“It’s been slow here all week,” Kelsey Bourne, manager of the Duck Brand restaurant in Winthrop, told The Spokesman-Review newspaper. Sales are down about 70 percent this week, she said. The popular restaurant is on the main street in Winthrop, the little Western-themed town that’s a popular  destination.

The North Cascades Highway is no stranger to natural forces. This boulder rolled onto the highway in 2010.  And mudslides and avalanches have closed the highway before, beyond its standard winter closing. . (WSDOT photo).

The North Cascades Highway is no stranger to natural forces. This boulder rolled onto the highway in  June 2010. (WSDOT photo).

The 30-room Winthrop Inn had 35 cancellations in three days, office manager Sonia Perrow told the newspaper.

The slides hit the mountain highway just west of Rainy Pass on Aug. 10 forcing the closure of 10 miles of road.

Drivers still can get to the Methow, but by a longer route (the same route that is used in winter as the  North Cascades Highway is not kept open for winter travel because of heavy snow).  Get to Wenatchee, then take State Route 97 north along the Columbia River to Pateros, then SR 153 north to Twisp and SR 20 west to Winthrop. It takes roughly one hour longer than driving from Seattle to the Methow via the North Cascades Highway.

And there still is some recreational access from both sides of the North Cascades Highway, since portions of it remain open. The DOT said “From the east, all recreational access is available as far the Pacific Crest trailheads and picnic area at Rainy Pass. From the west, access is available up to East, Canyon and Panther Creeks, East Bank and Happy Creek.”  Long-distance bicyclists also have been enjoying riding the steeply-climbing  highway from the Methow Valley up to Washington Pass – with hardly any cars on the road.

Comments | Topics: Highway 20 closure, North Cascades slides

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►