‘Impassable’ landslide closes Skate Creek Road in Packwood


Forest Service Road 52, also known as Skate Creek Road, is blocked at milepost 18.5 after an “impassable” landslide on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

The road is managed by the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and is in the forest’s Cowlitz Valley Ranger District. Forest Service personnel were sent out to the slide on Tuesday. 

Skate Creek Road, which runs from Packwood to Ashford, often closes in the winter due to weather conditions. Until the recent slide, the road remained open.

Roadside mountains along Skate Creek Road climb steeply into 2,500-foot elevation, according to resident Bill Serrahn, who works with the state as a keeper of Skate Creek Park. 

“Big slides come down those gullies from time to time,” Serrahn said, adding that heavy rain in the last week has created favorable conditions for those landslides.

An update on the slide was slated to come out after the all-clear from Wednesday’s flood event on the Cowlitz River. Reaching the moderate flooding stage, water from the Cowlitz River in Randle closed state Route 131 and U.S. Highway 12. The Washington Department of Transportation reopened U.S. 12 early Thursday.

“With current weather patterns travelers on Forest Service roads should proceed with caution and be prepared to spend the night should a landslide or flooding block the route,” the Gifford Pinchot posted on Facebook Tuesday. “Be safe and tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return!”

According to Lewis County Emergency Management Deputy Director Ross McDowell, signs of potential landslides include water coming out of hillsides and pouring from the ground, leaning trees, small slides, and any movement of earth. 

Updates on road closures managed by the state can be found via the Washington State Department of Transportation’s website at https://wsdot.com/Travel/Real-time/Map/ 

Lewis County road conditions can be found at https://roads.lewiscountywa.gov. The Gifford Pinchot keeps a real-time conditions list for roads and forest sites at https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/giffordpinchot/recreation#conditions