Reconstruction of the U.S. 34 Big Thompson Canyon will require major rock blasting operations this fall and winter. CDOT realizes that this area is very popular for multiple recreational activities, as well as providing a travel corridor to Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding US Forest Service lands, but please remember that although this first phase of work does not include river work, for the next few years this area will be an active construction zone. Because of this, we are asking outdoor enthusiasts to take extra safety precautions. Please be advised that starting in mid-October 2016, the lower canyon stretch of US 34 will be closed to through public travel (mile points 76 - 80). Below we have outlined some safety reminders to help you navigate through construction while still enjoying your normal recreational activities in the canyon.
Prior to rock blasts, a loud horn will sound and it is strongly advised to stay out of this section of the canyon (mile points 76 - 80 - east of Drake).
Round Mountain Nature Trail, located near Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park west of Loveland, has already closed for the remainder of the year to allow for demolition and road construction work by CDOT occurring near the trail. The other trail that leads to the summit of Round Mountain, accessible from the same trailhead, will be closed beginning Oct. 17.
Because of significant road closures in the lower canyon, hikers wishing to access trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, or the surrounding forest lands, should plan on traveling to the Estes Park area via US 36 or Colorado Highway 7 from the Town of Lyons.
Because of road closures, heavy construction and blasting,the lower Big Thompson Canyon from Waltonia downstream should be avoided. Crews will sweep the river for recreationists prior to blasting, however, it is the responsibility of the user to stay out of the work areas.
Deer and Elk Hunters
Due to heavy blasting in the lower canyon, please refrain from hunting in portions of the Big Thompson US Highway 34 between Larimer County Road 29 (Carter Lake Road) and Larimer County Road 43 (the North Fork Road) in Game Management Unit 20. Road closures in this area will preclude public access including the Round Mountain Trailhead, making it difficult to travel in this area.
If you are hunting in this area, please make sure to sign up for project updates (us34canyon.codot.gov) so that you know when the rock blasts will occur and listen for the loud horn. Hunters are strongly advised to avoid the area.
Travel restrictions and blasting near the stream sections of the Big Thompson Canyon at and below Drake, Colorado will make fishing in the lower canyon difficult and, and potentially unproductive due to all of the surrounding construction activity, therefore fishing between Larimer County Road 29 and the Waltonia bridge is being discouraged. Work within the river is not included in the first phase of work and fish will not be disturbed, however heavy traffic and blasting within the canyon does not create the serene mountain fishing experience that other areas may offer.
The upper Big Thompson River from Waltonia upstream to the Olympus Dam is largely intact and the fishing is equal to pre-flood conditions. We strongly suggest that anglers wanting to fish the Big Thompson do so in the upper section. Because of road closures in the lower canyon, access to the upper river is best from Estes Park downstream.
Because of the different construction areas and canyon closures, access to off-roading areas is not advised via the lower Big Thompson Canyon during construction. Multiple blasts a day are possible, and vehicles within the work area are at risk for rock damage. Access to the Storm Mountain area is available by Larimer County Road 43 from Estes Park.
Please be advised construction activities will be ongoing in the canyon over the next several years, with intense blasting operations happening October through May. It is strongly advised that recreational users avoid this area (mile points 76 - 80) and listen for the loud horn that will sound prior to blasts.