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Intense floods good, bad for Capitol Reef National Park

Posted at 5:32 PM, Jul 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-23 19:32:17-04

SALT LAKE CITY — On Wednesday, Capitol Reef National park in southern Utah received more than an inch of rain in just over 24 hours. That may not seem like a lot, but it resulted in flash flooding throughout the park.

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"And you have to remember, we only get an average of eight inches a year and last year was the tenth driest on record at not even five inches," said Lori Rome, Capitol Reef's Chief of Interpretation. "So, that one inch of rain in one day, in a few hours, can lead to a lot of changes in the park."

Rome said the flooding is both good and bad. Good because it helps to regenerate soil and maintain delicate ecosystems in the area.

"It's regenerative, she added, "and of course we get moisture going back into the system and that's good!"

But the flooding can create serious hazards for park visitors.

"What we saw on Wednesday was a perfect example," Rome said. "It didn't rain much in the park, but it rained heavily to the west up in Torrey, and all of that moisture to the west is sloping this way, all that moisture is coming into the park, and it came down in several feet of water in a flash flood."

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The flooding moves tons of mud and debris across the park creating a challenge for rangers who are trying to keep up on maintenance.

"This week has been an intense because it's storm after storm after storm, so we can't get the debris cleared quick enough before the next storm comes in," Rome added. "So, it's been an interesting week."

Flooding is expected at the park throughout the Pioneer Day holiday weekend. Rome recommends avoiding certain trails when conditions are wet.

"That's chimney rock, that could be Fremont trail or Fremont gorge overlook," she added.

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Instead, she said visitors should head to places like Hickman Bridge or the Rim Overlook. Rome said regardless of where you are hiking, always pay attention to lightening and falling debris.

"Hiking in in monsoon season, you have to be paying attention," she said. "Heads up, looking around, reading the forecast, and paying attention to the world around you. You see dark clouds, you hear booming, you're watching the cliff face, and you may have to just turn around and do something else with your day."