September 10, 2015 - Rocky Mountain National Park - Part 2
Elk Meadow RV Resort, Estes Park, Colorado
Old Fall River Road

Today we are going to drive on the oldest road in the park.

Opened in 1920, Old Fall River Road earned the distinction of being the first auto route in Rocky Mountain National Park offering access to the park's high country. Primarily gravel, one-way uphill and punctuated by switchbacks, slower-paced, 11-mile-long. The old road leads travelers from Horseshoe Park (a short distance west of the Fall River Entrance 8,240 feet above sea level) through the park's wilderness to Fall River Pass, 11,796 feet above sea level. There are no guard rails along this road. The road itself is safe, but narrow and curved. In places, the trees of the sub-alpine forests are so close that motorists can touch them.


Heading down into Horseshoe Park to connect with the Old Fall River Road.

The speed limit is 15 MPH. But we are traveling much slower so we can see the scenery.

It is a steady up hill climb. The river is below us on the left.

There are only a few places to stop and allow a car to pass. We are lucky today that there is very little traffic.

Our first stop. A view of Horseshoe Park where we started.
The meadows are called parks in the National Park.


This is the typical width of the road. Only one car wide.

The aspen are still green at the lower elevations.

We were able to pull off the side of the road and take time to hike along side the river.

We met a couple who were also hiking along the river.
They are regulars here and Marge is getting information about what to do next.
They told us about Chasm Falls observation platform and parking area, just up the road.
They are heading there also.


We lucked out again. A beautiful sunny day and no wind in the canyon

Chasm Falls.



I went down river to take a picture of Marge on the observation platform.

On my way back up.

Having someone take a picture of us is easier than carrying the tripod around.

This is looking almost straight up. There are many signs of landslides.

This is a recent landslide. It is on the otherside of the canyon.

The aspen are turning yellow at this elevation. Fall is coming.

Here is an older landslide. The forest is starting to reclaim the land with new growth.

To take the three previous pictures of the slides and yellow aspens, I parked the car here and walked back.
The road was too narrow back by the slides.


Gabions
This area had landslides almost every year. These landslides were caused by excess water runoff, freezing and thawing, and from summer cloudbursts. On July 30, 1953 a massive slide caused such extensive destruction that Old Fall River Road was nearly abandoned. Public support encouraged the National Park Service to reopen this road in the summer of 1968.

In order to reduce damage and cut repair time, gabions were installed in 1967 at two sites where slides are frequent. These wire-mesh cages were set in place, wired together and filled with rocks. Gabion is a French word for cage, and these structures were originally used for road construction in the Italian Alps. They have proven successful in reducing damage to Old Fall River Road.


After I took the picture of the Gabions and returned to the car, I decided to take a picture of the GPS.
It is on 800 feet resolution. The elevation which we are at is 10,745 feet.


We are in a small parking area on the bend of this hairpin turn. (One of many hairpin turns on the road.)
I guess everyone likes to take a picture of the turn.


It is time for lunch. I parked up the road and we came back to sit on the rocks which overlook the valley.

You can't beat this for a lunch spot.

Looking back at Horseshoe Park.

Our final destination for this drive, the Alpine Visitor Center.

Viewing the Old Fall River Road from the Alpine Visitor Center. Take note of the “S turn” in the road.

Our family visited Rocky Mountain National Park in 1975. There was a deep snowfield at that S-turn back then. The snowfield was present all year and the National park had to snowplow the snow to open the road every spring.

In 1975 we stopped at the snowfield to play in the snow on the downhill side of the road. Frank decided to climb up the uphill side and went quite a way up. When it was time to leave we called to him and he came running down. As he approached the plowed edge of the snowfield he tried to stop and slid over the edge and down into the gutter of the road.


1975 picture of Frank standing where he landed.
He had some minor cuts on his knee so we decided to stop at the Visitor Center for some Band-Aids.


They bandaged his knee and decide he needed an X-ray of his foot. They put a cardboard brace on his foot, carried him out to our car, and sent us to the hospital in Estes Park for X-rays.

The Alpine Visitor Center as it looks today.

Looking out the back of the Visitor Center....

...at this Marmot.

Back to the 2015 Fall Travel Directory