Vehicle Weight Limits set for Boulder Creek and French Cabin Creek Bridges

Cle Elum, WA — Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest bridge engineers have found safety concerns with two bridges on the Cle Elum Ranger District. Inspection of these bridges has revealed safety issues requiring weight restrictions be implemented for public safety on two bridges that access extremely popular recreation areas in the Upper Cle Elum Valley. 

On Forest Service Road #4330, locally known as the Fish Lake Road, a 5-ton weight limit has been placed on the Big Boulder Creek Bridge, located 2.4 miles north of Salmon la Sac Campground. Due to eroding bridge abutments, vehicles over 10,000 Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) are prohibited. This restriction will have a significant impact to folks who recreate in the Upper Cle Elum Valley above the Boulder Creek Bridge. Several popular destinations impacted by the bridge restriction are trailheads for Deception Pass, Cathedral Pass, Paddy Go Easy Pass, as well as numerous dispersed campsites located throughout the upper Cle Elum River valley and Taquala-Fish Lake areas.

“Although many visitors drive vehicles that are below the 10,000 GVW limit, those hauling campers, travel trailers, and stock trailers where the combined weight exceeds the GVW will be prohibited from accessing the area until the bridge can be repaired,” said Cle Elum District Ranger Michelle Capp.

“The weight limit restriction on the Big Boulder Creek Bridge has also forced our recreation managers to close all vault toilets located on Forest Road #4330 in the interest of public health. These vault toilets must be pumped several times each summer, and the septic trucks we normally contract with to service those areas are too heavy for the bridge,” Capp said.

“We have contacted numerous septic service companies and have learned that there are no pumper trucks available that are under the weight limit,” said Front Country Recreation Manager Brian Speeg. “We have explored every avenue and have found no acceptable solution.”

In light of the lack of facilities, recreation fees at the Tucquala Meadows Trailhead, which accesses Deception and Cathedral Pass as well as the Pacific Crest Trail, will be waived until the toilets can be reopened.

The other bridge affected by weight restrictions is located on Forest Service Road #4308 which crosses the Cle Elum River and accesses the popular French Cabin Creek dispersed camping area near the north end of Cle Elum Lake. A weight limit of 10 tons has been placed on this bridge. Vehicles over 20,000 GVW are prohibited.  

“It is unknown how long these weight restriction and restroom facility closures will be in place,” Capp said. “We are working with Kittitas County and seeking grant funding to repair the bridges. These bridges are inspected annually. If the bridge abutments continue to erode or the structures continue to decline there is a chance the bridges would need to be closed until repairs can be made.”

Visitors to the Fish Lake area are asked to dispose of human waste using “Blue Bags” or other sanitary means of disposal, such as packing waste out, or burying it more than 200 feet away from streams, water sources, and public use areas.


Boulder Creek Bridge

Boulder Creek Bridge eroded bridge abutment. Credit: USFS/ K. Bigelow


French Cabin Creek bridge

French Cabin Creek Bridge, showing the failing west bridge approach. Credit: USFS/ K. Bigelow


Boulder Creek bridge warning sign

Warning sign posted near the junction of Highway 903 and Forest Road #4330 to inform recreationists of Boulder Creek bridge

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