Torrential rains overnight on Sept. 18 to 19 unleashed a massive debris slide in the Capricorn Creek drainage near Meager Creek, knocking out a bridge and overt 200 metres of road roughly 5 km away from the hot springs.
Nobody was hurt and there was no loss of property as a result of the slide, but three people who had hiked to Harrison Hut on Overseer Mountain were trapped on the other side of the creek. They were forced to abandon their Nissan Pathfinder and wade across the creek to the other side and get a ride.
While the Meager Creek Hot Springs are typically busy on a weekend, the Ministry of Forests and Range made a decision to move the campground away from the springs to the Lillooet FSR for safety issues related to floods and slides which are common in the area. As a result the gates - usually open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. - were still closed when the slide occurred.
The Capricorn Creek bridge was knocked out in 1998 by a massive debris slide which closed the road for several years. The bridge to access the hot springs was then washed out by a massive flood in 2003, resulting in a five-year closure of the hot springs.
The area is stilling being assessed by geoscientists, but it's not likely that the bridge will be replaced until next year.
"The hot springs are closed because right now our operator can't get in, or the public for that matter," said Norbert Greinacher, recreation officer for the Sea to Sky Forest District.
"(The bridge) is likely going to be replaced, but it's not likely to happen this year. In the interim we've closed access for hunters, hikers, or anyone going back there, like mushroom pickers.
"It's still possible to walk in, but that's not something we would recommend. There are rocks that are loose and the mud is as deep as your waist. It's a wide debris field, and it's just not a safe area to be right now."
The Ministry of Forests maintains the bridges and the Meager Creek Forest Service Road, which branches off the Upper Lillooet FSR at the 39 th kilometre.
David Southam, operations manager for the forest district, says that signs have been put up on the Lillooet FSR to notify people of the slide, as well as in the Elaho Valley where there is a trail to the Meager Hot Springs over the Thousand Lakes Plateau.
"I was able to view the area by helicopter for the first time on September 21 and the next day I went in with two geoscientists to take measurements and find out where the slide started. This was a naturally occurring debris flow, in a very unstable area," he said.
"The 1998 event was much larger, 1.2 million cubic metres of material came down in 1998. Although this latest slide covers the same area it didn't move as much material - the new materials blend in with the old, so it looks larger than it probably was."
The geoscientists will submit a report on the debris slide, as well as make recommendations for the future that will determine when - or possibly "if: - the road will reopen.
"It is an active logging road," he said. "I suspect it will be hopefully next year that it opens, but that all depends on the final report from geoscientists, as far as the safety of allowing the general public on the road. We still don't know how much debris came down, and there's no dollar figure yet either for the damage or how much it might cost to reopen.
"It was good timing as far as that goes, in that it happened during our regular daily closure. If it happened during the day it could have been a different story, and at least we might have seen a larger number of people and vehicles trapped in that area."
There is a dramatic video on Facebook of a slide in the area, which was shot at 8 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 19 by the province's caretaker for the hot spring.
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