Cohutta Wilderness, nearby campground closed after high winds, flash flood damage

Woody debris piles along the Jacks River Trail. On July 21, 2018, a flash flood occurred on the Chattahoochee National Forest, affecting a broad area of the Conasauga Ranger District, including the Cohutta Wilderness area. (Image: USDA Forestry)

(Editor's Note: This article was written by and published first on the website of the United States Department of Agriculture - Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests)

On Wednesday, the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests announced the closure of the Cohutta Wilderness area and Cottonwood Patch Campground after high winds, heavy rain and flash flooding on July 21, 2018, caused significant damage and hazardous conditions. Trail users and other visitors should avoid the area until damage assessments and hazards are removed. Forest Service Road 51 (East Cowpen Road) is closed to vehicle traffic for public safety, as hazard trees and high water levels continue in the area.

On July 21, 2018, high winds and a flash flood occurred on the Chattahoochee National Forest, affecting a broad area of the Conasauga Ranger District, including the Cohutta Wilderness area. More than 4-inches of rain fell across the isolated area in a 2-hour time span. The steep mountainous terrain drained the rainfall quickly, causing rivers and creeks to reach critical flood levels, rising several times normal water levels with relatively massive discharge amounts of water. The high winds and flash flooding caused significant damage to trails, campgrounds, roads and other infrastructure, creating hazards that continue to present a danger today. Find updates on the July 21, 2018, Cohutta storm event on the agency website here.

In response to ongoing hazards creating by the high winds and flash flooding, the United States Forest Service closed the Cohutta Wilderness area, Forest Service Road 51 (East Cowpen Road) and Cottonwood Patch Campground. Several search and rescue missions to save visitors occurred after the storm at considerable risk to visitors and emergency responders. The agency is continuing to assess storm damage in this remote and rugged wild forest, and unknown hazards are expected to be discovered. High stream flows, falling trees, log jams and impassable roads continue to occur across the area. Until a full assessment of the damage can be completed and resources assigned, it is unknown how long the area closure may last.

"We appreciate visitor's cooperation by avoiding this area until the hazards can be addressed," said Fire Management Officer Jeff Schardt. "The danger of suffering injury in a remote wildland area is serious, as communications and emergency response access is limited."

The Cohutta Wilderness area is a special place and is managed by specific rules and federal law to keep it wild and beautiful. People love this area for its natural wildness. Learn more about Designated Wilderness Areas at www.wilderness.net. Please see our website for updates and information on joining a volunteer group if you wish to help our national forests.


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