TOUTLE – Travelers have just a few more days left to enjoy the scenic views of Mount St. Helens from the higher elevations of State Route 504, also known as Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, before it closes for the winter.
At dusk, on Wednesday, Dec. 1, Washington State Department of Transportation maintenance crews will close the gate to the upper reaches of the road, at milepost 45, near Coldwater Lake.
Each year, WSDOT coordinates the seasonal closure with the U.S. Forest Service in anticipation of hazardous winter weather. The road reopens each spring.
"The annual closure allows maintenance crews to accomplish two goals," said Kent Palmer, WSDOT's lead maintenance technician for the area. "First, we close the upper portion of the highway because it gets a lot of rain, ice and snow and is not safe for winter travel. Second, closing ahead of inclement winter weather gives our crews time to clear downed trees and remove debris from ditches and culverts, which helps minimize springtime repairs and allows the road to reopen sooner."
The scenic byway will be closed from the Hummocks Trailhead to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, but Coldwater Lake still will be accessible as weather conditions allow.
Drivers can stay informed on the latest traffic issues by visiting WSDOT's recently updated real-time travel map, or by following WSDOT's southwest Washington-area Twitter account.