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'We’ve never seen that': Hanging Lake remains murky but extent of damage is unclear

Hanging Lake reservations suspended
Posted at 6:16 PM, Aug 03, 2021

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. -- Hanging Lake was spared by the Grizzly Creek Fire but monsoon rains and mudslides have turned the once crystal clear water into a shade of murky brown.

"That was really hard to see. We’ve never seen that. We’ve gone to the historical society and asked and it’s just not anything anyone has seen in their lifetimes out here," said David Boyd, public affairs officer for the White River National Forest.

Hanging Lake April 2021
Hanging Lake | April 2021

Boyd said a team of specialists want to survey the area but it remains inaccessible. He said it's still unsafe to hike to Hanging Lake and he is not sure when Forest Service staff will be able to check for any potential damage.

"Since we haven’t seen this before, we don’t know for sure how severe the impacts are and how long they’ll last," said Boyd.

Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon was shut down Thursday after more than 100 people had to spend the night on the highway, including nearly 30 who took refuge in a tunnel, after rain over the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar triggered mudslides. The highway remains closed due to what CDOT officials described as "extreme damage."

The trail for Hanging Lake is located in the heart of Glenwood Canyon and officials announced it would remain closed due to damage on I-70. Video taken from a helicopter over the weekend revealed the water at this treasured spot was now brown from all the runoff and debris.

The Glenwood Springs tourism website said reservations remain unavailable. It's unclear when the trail will reopen.

"Of course we’ll lose some business but the main message basically is that Glenwood Springs is open, even though the canyon is not," said Lisa Langer, director of tourism promotion for Visit Glenwood Springs.

While the extent of any potential damage to Hanging Lake remains unclear, experts believe it will not be permanent.

"That fine sediment will settle out with time. The water column will become clear. The bed will have a lot of mud on it, but that will gradually be flushed out and algae will grow on top of it," said Ellen Wohl, a geology professor at Colorado State University.