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Flooding prompts closures at Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Written by , published September 13, 2013

Guadalupe Mountains National Park in far West Texas is hoping to dry out after three days of heavy rain that caused flooding and prompted the park’s closure.

The mountainous park on the New Mexico border received rainfall totals ranging from five inches to 12.4 inches, depending on location, in a 24-hour period stretching from Wednesday to Thursday, Superintendent Dennis Vasquez said. Over three days, the park  received more rain than it typically does in year, he said.

“We’ve haven’t seen this kind of rain here in a long time,” Vasquez said. “Talking to people who have been here for a while and former employees, this is quite unusual.”

Park officials started reopening sections of the park on Friday morning.

“We’ve been doing some damage assessments and trail assessments beginning yesterday afternoon and continuing this morning,” Vasquez said Friday. “We’ve started opening up a little bit, and as things dry up we’ll continue to open up more trails and other areas of the park.”

Vasquez said the following areas will remain closed at least through the weekend: McKittrick Canyon, Salt Basin Dunes, Williams Road, Dog Canyon, and parts of the backcountry.

The main campground has reopened and the park hopes to open Frijole Ranch History Museum on Saturday.

The rain started Tuesday and began moving out late Thursday. At  Pine Springs Visitor Center, the park headquarters, 14 inches of rain were recorded over three days, eclipsing the location’s annual average of 10 inches.

The latest flooding follows an unusually wet July and August.

“Things were already green, and fire danger had been low for a couple of months,” Vasquez said. “Unofficially, I think the rainfall for headquarters this year is like 26 inches.”

McKittrick Canyon, which is normally a dry creek with occasional shallow pools, turned into a raging river several feet deep after several days of rain that included 7.5 inches in one 24-hour period.  The canyon is a popular spot for hikers to see the colorful changing leaves of the bigtooth maples in the fall.

“I don’t now if it will be good for the colors or not. It’s so unusual,” Vasquez said. “We’re sending someone up there today. We haven’t been into the canyon to see what kind of damage there is to the leaves or the trees, or if the trees are still there.”

Check out photos and video of the flooding on the park's Facebook page.

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