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After Mud Flows, Two Middle Fork Nooksack Trails Still Dangerous

Posted by Loren Drummond at Jun 14, 2013 02:55 PM |
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Avoid Elbow Lake, Ridley Creek trails, which are in a dangerous area after a series of debris flow—a slurry of mud, boulders, trees and anything caught along the way—slumped into the Middle Fork Nooksack Valley on the southwest side of Mt. Baker.
After Mud Flows, Two Middle Fork Nooksack Trails Still Dangerous

The Middle Fork of the Nooksack River crossing on the Ridley Creek Trail in 2011. Photo by mtnfrog.

On May 31, an enormous debris flow—a  slurry of mud, boulders, trees and anything caught along the wayslumped into the upper Middle Fork Nooksack Valley at the receding toe of Deming Glacier on the southwest side of Mt. Baker. Two smaller debris flows occurred on June 1 and 6, and scientists and agencies monitoring the area say that more flows are possible.

Avoid Elbow Lake, Ridley Creek trails

The area remains dangerous to hikers. Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest Service officials recommend avoiding the area around Elbow Lake and Ridley Creek trails.

“If you feel ground shaking and hear rumbling like an approaching freight train, get off the valley floor as quickly as possible, a debris flow can travel a lot faster than you can run,” says Carolyn Driedger, hydrologist and public information officer at the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash.

Need an alternative in the North Cascades? Head up the North Cascades Hwy, and check out Thunder Knob instead.

Mud flows common in glaciated volcano valleys

Debris flows—fast-moving slurries of boulders and mud—are sporadic events in the valleys of glaciated volcanoes due to the abundance of loose volcanic rock, excess water, steep slopes, and confining valley walls. These kinds of events are not uncommon at Mount Rainier and at Mount Hood, for example, and have happened before on Mount Baker and nearby Glacier Peak.

>> Mount Baker Volcano Research Center blog
>> Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Video from the valley

While we do not recommend visiting the area or hiking the valley floor until the flows have ceased, you can see a video of the area after the most recent flow:

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