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News / Northwest

Mount St. Helens trails close through 2027 as work to update Spirit Lake tunnel starts

By Minka Atkinson, , The Daily News, Longview, Wash. (TNS),
Published: May 21, 2024, 4:23pm

LONGVIEW—A number of trails in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument will be closed on weekdays through 2027 now that crews are starting to update the tunnel at Spirit Lake near the site of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption.

The project aims to prevent the lake from overflowing, but was stalled around 2021 when a lawsuit argued a temporary access road through the lake’s Pumice Plain could damage research in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

Officials say the road is needed to replace the old intake gate at the lake that helps protect the downstream communities from catastrophic floods. Crews will build the temporary access road this summer, which will follow the route first used when the initial gate was installed in the 1980s, said Gifford Pinchot National Forest spokesperson Charles Lassiter.

When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, debris blocked the historic outflow of Spirit Lake, raising the water level 200 feet. Engineers built a tunnel in 1985 to drain the lake and to prevent a catastrophic flood, but the 35-year-old tunnel needs repairs and upgrades.

The project involves replacing a single cast-iron gate with redundant gates, as well as dredging 1980s spoils piles where logs get stuck and prevent the lake from draining, according to a U.S. Forest Service press release.

Visitors can expect to see large construction equipment and materials, and may encounter large vehicles on Forest Road 99 during construction.

Contractors are setting up near Windy Ridge, closing the area they are staged at seven days a week through Oct. 31.

The following trails will also be closed weekdays but open Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays through Oct. 31.

  • The southern portion of the Windy Ridge parking area.
  •  Forest Road 99 extension road from Windy Ridge to the Truman Trail.
  •  TR 207 (Truman Trail) from TR 216E (Windy) to TR 1 (Boundary).
  •  TR 216D (Plains of Abraham) from TR 216 (Loowit) to Forest Road 99 extension road.
  •  TR 216E (Windy) from TR 207 (Truman) to TR 216 (Loowit).
  •  TR 207A (Truman) from TR 216 (Loowit) to TR 207 (Truman).
  • —TR 1E (Harry’s Ridge).

Updates and more information on the closures can be found www.fs.usda.gov/giffordpinchot.