Colorado Gulch

{p class=”PhotoCaption”}County crews removed the damaged bridge crossing the Big Wood River at Colorado Gulch in 2018.{/p}

The Blaine County Commissioners took a significant step on Nov. 2 towards replacing the failed bridge at Colorado Gulch.

The board approved a $17,270 contract with Wyoming-based Biota Research & Consulting on Nov. 2 for an aquatic resources and wetland analysis and the preparation of stream-alteration and floodplain conditional-use permits, both needed before a replacement pedestrian bridge can be installed.

For decades, motorists and pedestrians had used the former Colorado Gulch bridge—a popular access point for hikers, bikers and hunters—to access Bureau of Land Management land to the west, but the original 80-foot steel bridge failed in 2017 after floodwater was funneled toward the abutments. Only portions of concrete footings remain today.

The Land Trust had considered three different nonmotorized bridge options, including a 500-foot suspension bridge from the preserve’s parking area to the original bridge site, a shorter 350-foot bridge across the river with an access path, and a 120-foot suspension bridge accompanied by a series of shorter bridges over side channels.

According to Land Trust Restoration Specialist Ryan Santo, the county was notified around the same time that it had received a FEMA grant that would fund 75% of the bridge, accompanying footbridges and riparian area restoration work. The deal was hard to pass up, he said.

"Back in 2017, the county was told that it would take years to receive [FEMA funding], which is why the Land Trust stepped in," Santo said. "There are many advantages to going with FEMA. One is that they would combine all the work—the restoration and bridge work—into one grant."

Now, with FEMA funding, Blaine County is planning to build a 120-foot suspension bridge by 2022.

Blaine County maintains a right-of-way through the preserve along the riverbank, including the approach to the bridge site, and would own any future bridge and provide input on its design.

The Land Trust purchased the 150-acre Colorado Gulch Preserve, mostly cottonwood forest, in 2016 from the Stevens Family Ranch, effectively lengthening the southern reach of the Hailey Greenway by about a mile. Since then, the Land Trust has kept the cottonwood forest preserve open to the public during the daytime. 

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