Many routes to and from Cottonwood Pass on Garfield County side

Colorado National Guard Sgt. Duke and Specialist Thorson talk to dispatchers over the radio and direct traffic on Cottonwood Pass last week.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

There’s no ideal way up to or down off of Cottonwood Pass on the west side, but Garfield County officials will at least attempt to better distribute local traffic and take some of the load off of Cattle Creek whenever I-70 is closed through Glenwood Canyon.

To start, county commissioners will try with some directional signs depending on a motorist’s destination in the Roaring Fork Valley.

County Road and Bridge Supervisor Wyatt Keesbery was directed to put a new sign at Cattle Creek and County Road 100 pointing traffic bound for Carbondale, Basalt and Aspen to the signalized Catherine Store intersection at Colorado Highway 82 east of Carbondale.

“If we can get at least some traffic off of 113 (lower Cattle Creek Road), it’s a plus,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said during the Monday commissioners meeting.

Jankovsky last week suggested the northerly combination of County Roads 115 and 114 as a better route toward Glenwood Springs, rather than Cattle Creek, because it comes to a signalized intersection at Colorado Highway 82.

Keesbery, however, wasn’t confident new road signs would do much good.

“People follow their GPS and don’t really read signs,” he said of computerized navigational systems that newer vehicles come equipped with, or via their smartphones.

Because Cottonwood Pass on the Garfield County side is a continuation of County Road 113 until it crosses into Eagle County, that’s the direction it gives to and from Highway 82.

A modified Google Map shows the various routes into Garfield County from Cottonwood Pass, indicated in the upper right of this image, including the Cattle Creek passage in the middle, a combination of County Roads 115 and 114 to the north, and County Road 100 to the south.
Garfield County Road and Bridge graphic

“There’s really no good solution,” Keesbery said of what could be a half dozen different ways to the valley’s main highway through Spring Valley or Missouri Heights.

“Whatever you do, you’re just going to take traffic from one road and put it on another,” he said.

And, when it comes to the backcountry route serving as an alternative to I-70 during closures, “These roads weren’t built to handle that traffic,” Keesbery said.

Part of the state’s request for $116 million in federal emergency funding to repair I-70 in Glenwood Canyon after recent mud and debris slides closed the route for 15 days — $50 million — is to study and improve alternative routes during future closures.

Cottonwood Pass, currently a series of unimproved county roads between the Roaring Fork Valley and Gypsum that’s closed in the winter months, is mentioned as one such alternative, at least for local commuters.

Exactly which way that “improved” route would take on the Garfield County side would be the subject of a formal environmental review required whenever federal dollars are involved.

“One of these roads is going to become the outlet for that,” Jankovsky said, adding it would likely involve an improved Highway 82 intersection no matter which route is chosen.

Those decisions and any actual road improvements are likely several years off, “But they do want to move as fast as they possibly can” to begin studying the options, he said.

Commission Chairman John Martin noted that another potential outlet for anyone headed toward Basalt or Aspen is also Upper Cattle Creek Road (County Road 122), which eventually takes traffic to the signalized Highway 82 intersection at El Jebel.

“That’s where a lot of people want to go,” Martin said, jokingly suggesting another road sign reading, “Don’t believe Google.”

Traffic bound for up-valley destinations “needs to go directly to El Jebel. That’s what that light is for,” Martin said.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or

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