Grizzly Creek Fire Crosses Hanging Lake, But Spares The Scenic Spot From Direct Damage

Michael Elizabeth Sakas/CPR News
Hanging Lake as it appeared June 14, 2020.

Updated 6:33 p.m.

One of the most beloved outdoor sites in Colorado was overtaken by the Grizzly Creek Fire, but largely spared direct damage by the fast-moving flames.

Managers have confirmed that Hanging Lake was in the path of flames when the fire exploded late in the day on Thursday. In a matter of hours, the blaze grew from around 6,200 acres to cover 14,663 acres in and around Glenwood Canyon. There’s no containment on it at this point.

A map estimating the fire’s boundaries put the National Natural Landmark well within the burn zone.

But at an evening briefing from Glenwood Springs, White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said that an aerial survey of the area indicated the main portion of the scenic spot emerged okay.

"I'm happy to announce that the immediate area around Hanging Lake...was not impacted by the fire," Fitzwilliams said.

There remain concerns that the area's unique hydrology could be damaged by the fire, which burned around and above the lake. But it will be some time before that can be determined.

But the trail and boardwalk could be seen from the sky and were not damaged.

Hanging Lake is more than 4 miles to the east of where the fire started by Grizzly Creek. Interstate 70 is closed through the canyon with no estimated time to reopen. Residents on either end of the canyon, near Dotsero in the east and No Name in the west, have been ordered to evacuate.

Estimated fire boundary as of Friday morning.

Nearly 400 personnel are working on the fire, which is one of the top firefighting priorities in the country right now. And after Thursday's blowup, officials said the fire crossed into Eagle County and roughly doubled in size Friday.

"We're making every effort with available resources on the ground... as well as using all aerial resources we have access to, to try to slow any progression and so that we can put this thing out as soon as possible," fire operations spokesman Brian Scott said.

Hanging Lake is one of Colorado’s top outdoor destinations, with 186,000 people making the short hike up to its colorful waters in 2018. To address overuse, the Forest Service instituted a number of crowd control measures last year, including a timed reservation system and a shuttle bus to the trailhead.