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'Freak event' sends huge surge of water through campsite

Aug 6, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The U.S. Forest Service is investigating an unusual water event that left an outfitter's campsite flooded Friday in the Wind River Mountains.

No one was injured in the incident, but a woman and her two young grandchildren were stranded on a rock until they were helped to shore by nearby Forest Service employees.

"It was the actual outfitters (who were stranded)," Forest Service support services supervisor Connie Mock said Tuesday. "The wife and the camp help and her grandkids were there. ... She called and said, 'We're fine, we're safe -- we're just on an island.'

Glacial melt?

Mock said the water may have come from a glacial lake that overflowed, sending a burst of water through the campsite at Downs Fork Meadow above Dubois.

"The water was, like, 3 feet deep, (and) it was running pretty fast," Mock said Tuesday.

A hydrologist will determine the official cause of the flood, but Mock said the incident resembled a glacial event in 2003 that also affected Downs Fork Meadow -- and the same local outfitting company.

According to published reports, a 30-acre lake eroded through the Grasshopper Glacier in September 2003, sending an estimated 650 million gallons of water down Grasshopper Creek to the Downs Fork and into Dinwoody Creek.

The burst of water in 2003 struck a camp belonging to Clayton Voss of Lazy TX Outfitting, and it was Voss's wife and grandchildren who were stranded in the same campsite Friday.

"We had a (trail) crew in the area that went up with the horses and packed them out ... to lower elevation," Mock said.

Impact

The flood in 2003 reportedly altered at least eight miles of the range spanning 2,800 vertical feet, but Mock said the impact this weekend was less.

"The water came through, and it's done," she said. "It was just a freak event. ... There was no closure or anything."

She said the Forest Service hydrologist will take measurements to determine how much water came through the area. The data will be used to identify the cause of the flood.

During the glacial event in 2003, water levels about 17 miles downstream of Grasshopper Lake in Dinwoody Creek rose from 200 to 900 cubic feet per second.

The incident also left a lot of glacial silt in Grasshopper Creek, Downs Fork Meadow, Mud Lake, Upper Dinwoody and Dinwoody lakes and irrigation ditches more than 20 miles away.

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