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June 7, 2013 at 8:04 PM

USGS: Debris flow endangers hikers in Middle Fork Nooksack Valley

U.S. Geological Survey officials are reminding hikers and others enjoying outdoor recreation to be aware of the possibility of debris flow in glacial valleys.

A combination of mud, boulders and trees flowed into the Middle Fork Nooksack Valley at 2:54 a.m. on May 31. Smaller flow events were initiated later in the week. The area can be dangerous for hikers, as additional debris flows can occur.

“People just need to be careful in that location,” said Carolyn Driedger, hydrologist and public information officer at the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash. “It’s just not a good idea to walk around on all that loose rock debris.”

The Ridley Creek and Elbow Lake trails, which are used to access the Mount Baker National Recreation Area, cross the Middle Fork Nooksack River in the debris flow area. Elbow Lake is a popular fishing spot.

Debris flows are not uncommon in glacial valleys, including Mount Rainier and Mount Hood, but are unpredictable, Driedger said.

“When you have a lot of excess water and excess rock debris and put it on a slope, you have a recipe for debris flow,” Driedger said.

Anyone who feels the ground shaking and hears rumbling should get off the valley floor as quickly as possible. Debris flows can travel up to 20 mph, according to Driedger.

“You can’t outrun them,” Driedger said. “Always have a place in mind where you can get yourself out of the valley floor.”

Comments | Topics: Elbow Lake trail, Mount Baker National Recreation Area, Ridley Creek trail

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