The Lawn Lake Flood

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Chris, thank you for this short but informative story on the Lawn Lake Flood. When I heard the news in Vail, it reminded me of the Big Thompson Flood of 1976, the summer we moved from the midwest to Vail.

I remember all of the news on TV and reading accounts in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News.

Floods are an interest I have given our unusual weather patterns that can change in minutes.


We camped at Lawn Lake in the 60's to fish. There was a cabin the CCC built in the 30's in which we stayed. We fished 2 or 3 days. My brother and sister and I were guided by a family friend (Cecil Hinshaw) who also took us up Longs Peak via the cable route on the North Face now a technical route after the removal of the cables.


Was there that day, camping in the backwoods about 6 miles up from the public campground. The sound woke the three of us up - hangovers instantly gone. As it got closer the sound was deafening - you couldn't hear yourself scream if you wanted to. In the twilight the site was surreal as mature pine trees were bobbing through the air on what we quickly determined was a massive wall of muddy water. Water spray and splashes on our site sent us scurrying for higher ground. After its main pass, we spent hours watching tons of earth and 100' trees fall into the newly formed canyon edges. The canyon had to be a football field across with shear drop edges. We had a transistor radio but couldn't find any reports on what was happening. A few hours later a rescue group found us on the other side of the canyon and with their body gestures we figured out they wanted us to stay there! A couple more hours passed, the rescue group reached us, gathered us, and then scrambled us to an open site where helicopters transported us and our gear to the ranger station for interviews. Once in the air, the devastation was evident, especially over the public campground. Initially we were thinking of setting up tents closer to the 'creek' but decided to set a can of peaches in the water and camp higher up at the designated camping spot. It was a wise decision, we would have been goners like our can of peaches. As it was, our tents ended up to be about 20' from the newly formed canyon edge. Afterwards we were put up at a commercial campground outside the park. There were 7 or 8 other guys that were also 'rescued' from our area who were put up at the campground. Turns out all of us were from IL. Hopefully not bad juju. It was an unforgettable and solemn experience for three novice backpackers from Chicago.

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