Williams River area on the Highland Scenic highway is closed indefinitely for repairs after late June flooding
The devastating flooding in West Virginia in late June not only took lives, homes and businesses, it’s also affected a popular Monongahela National Forest tourist area on the Highland Scenic highway in Pocahontas County. The Williams River area on the scenic highway has been closed indefinitely due to severe damage from the flood waters. An Incident Command Team for the Mon forest was onsite June 27th to assess the damage. Here’s Bill Paxton, the Public Information Officer for the Eastern Area Incident Management Team.
“We are an all hazard team that handles everything from fires to floods and hurricanes and even things like the World Trade Center,” said Paxton. “We work out of the eastern United States which is a 20 state area. Our function here is to help the forest manage the response to the affects of the flooding on the Monongahela National Forest.”
“The Williams River road was severely damaged. It washed the road out, there’s rock slides across it; there is some damage to some of the campgrounds. The road will be closed ‘til they can get it repaired.”
Paxton said to expect the area to closed for quite some time.
“It’s closed from the fishing pier just east of the Highland Scenic highway upstream to the road’s end and from downstream to the Tea Creek campground to the county road east of Dyer,” he said. “We are working with the West Virginia Dept [Div] of Highways and they are putting up signing to show that the road is closed.
According to the Mon forest website, trailhead bridges off Route 39 for the Pocahontas Trail and Eagle Camp Trail are washed out. Paxton said they hope to create a spreadsheet to release to the public to give visitors a better idea of what areas are accessible. But he said they are still in the process of assessing damaged areas.
“Most of the damage it appears is on the Gauley Ranger District out of Richwood,” said Paxton. “Being it’s such a large land area, we are still getting to some roads to determine status.”
Paxton emphasized that they’re work is restricted to the national forest property, and in this case, specifically to the Mon. And as in other parts of West Virginia, US Forest personnel were also directly impacted by the flooding.
“Some employees had their houses damaged and so forth, so what we’re doing that pressure to deal with this disaster off the forest so they can do their regular job and take care of their own lives,” he said Paxton. “That’s our mission here to do that.”
Paxton offers some advice to visitors to the Mon forest in the wake of the flooding.
“If you’re coming into the forest from the south don’t travel through Richwood or White Sulphur [Springs, WV],” he said, “because they’re dealing with the issues form the flooding. If people want to get to Tea Creek, Lake Sherwood, or Bluebend campground, they need to access those areas from the north. They are pretty much accessible from the south, but the issue is people are working in those locations.”
For more information on the Monongahela National Forest, please visit www.fsusda.gov/mnf/