South County

Mud Creek Floods Again: Closing Pilgrim Creek Road

On June 8th of this year, the US Forest Service (USFS) has once again closed Pilgrim Creek Road due to the flooding of Mud Creek onto the Pilgrim Creek Road and making it a safety hazard for drivers. 

Pilgrim Creek Road is a paved US Forest Service road off highway 89 near the town of McCloud and is the main route to the subdivision of the Mount Shasta Forest Property Owners Association (MSFPOA).

The occurrence of rapid melting from the Konwakiton Glacier (one of 7 glaciers on Mount Shasta) from rising temperatures causes the overflowing of Mud Creek, carrying ash, sand, boulders, and debris like downed trees, blocking the natural waterways and creating new flood routes through the forest, has a history of recurring through the years.   

Over the last 100 years, there have been approximately 9 major debris flow events at Mud Creek. Recent records show that in 2002, 2014, 2015, and 2021, Mud Creek experienced debris flows at a much greater rate than  prior historic records. Available data suggests a 16% probability of a significant debris flow event at Mud Creek within the next two years. If one event occurs, there’s a 44% chance of at least one more happening in the same year. The probability of a significant debris flow event within the next five years rises to 31%.

 The last big occurrence that had the USFS close Pilgrim Creek Road was in July of 2021.  The road was closed for two years and caused a lot of frustration for those who live in the subdivision and had to take a longer and unpaved road called Esperanza.

This gravel road had to be maintained regularly by the USFS due to the heavier traffic not only from the people coming to and from the subdivision, but also logging trucks as well. The higher amount of traffic and excessive speeds on this rocky/graveled road, according to the MSFPOA, caused damage to more than 150 vehicles’ tires.  In a bulletin to the members of the Association dated June 10th, AAA will not tow on an unpaved road and Butte Towing charges $300 to $600 per towed vehicle. The bulletin recommended using  Bigalow or Cattlecamp roads which are even longer routes than Esperanza. 

Press release from the US Forest Service:

Pilgrim Creek Road is temporarily closed due to debris flows.
Higher temperatures in the past 10 days have resulted in increased snowmelt runoff from Mount Shasta, and the increased flows caused a stream diversion in Mud Creek last Friday. This diversion deposited mud, large rocks, and debris on Pilgrim Creek Road, leaving it unpassable and a substantial public safety risk.

Our engineers and staff are diligently working towards reopening Pilgrim Creek Road as soon as possible. To reopen the road, we had to wait until conditions were safe to begin work. Next, we need to ensure the water diversion in Mud Creek is stopped, and then we need to clear the road of debris and mud. We do not have an estimate for when this road will be reopened, but we are beginning work to block the diversion.

While we work towards reopening Pilgrim Creek Road, drivers will need to continue to choose an alternate route to access the area. The closest and most commonly used alternate route is the Esperanza Road, although there are concerns with the travel surface. If you decide to utilize Esperanza Road, please drive under the posted 25 miles per hour to minimize road damage and improve the safety for all drivers along that route.USFS Public Relations

The people from the MSFPOA were very surprised and pleased to find out that a report from USFS District  Ranger Joseph Rodarme of the Shasta/McCloud Management Unit, had Pilgrim Creek Road reopened on June 15th after assuring it was safe enough. He thanked the road crew, firefighters, resource specialists, Shasta-Trinity National Forest Engineer Stephen Frahm and U.S. Forest Service Region 5 Engineer Brad Job for their quick response to the situation.

” Thank you to the Mount Shasta Forest Property Owner Association, recreationist, and other travelers for your cooperation and patience as our employees worked to reopen the road and ensure it is safe for travel. Shasta-Trinity National Forest employees will continue to monitor the road conditions and evaluate options to make lasting improvements to decrease the likelihood of future debris flows at this site.”

Joseph Rodarme

He also advises those who are using the Pilgrim Creek Road to drive slowly and not to stop through the mud flow area. 

Rodarme also says that the next priority is to upgrade Esperanza Road and that there are plans to get it paved eventually. 

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