Dolores County has issued a winter closure on a 25-mile section of the Dolores Norwood Road (Forest Road 526) for highway vehicles. Vehicle closure gates are placed at the Cottonwood Road intersection, at a point just south of the Road D (Disappointment Valley Road), and 5 miles south of Miramonte Reservoir. The closure begins Dec. 28.
The road closure prohibits highway vehicles, but it remains open for OHVs, snowmobiles and backcountry skiers, hikers and snowshoers. Summer homes along the road and at Groundhog lake may be accessed via OHVs after Dec. 28.
The closure is necessary to prevent regular highway vehicles from becoming stranded on the section of road which is not maintained in winter, said Dolores County Search and Rescue Director Keith Keesling.
Rescues of stranded drivers were happening on the road on average four to five times per year, sometimes many more, he said.
Part of the problem is Google Maps, Keesling said.
When non-locals punch in the shortest route to Telluride from the south, or to Cortez from the north, the map directs them to the Dolores-Norwood Road, which is impassible in the winter.
“While most turn around, when they see the winter snow situation, others trust their phone and keep going, get stuck and stranded and call us for help,” Keesling said.
This is the second year the county has decided to close the section of road during winter. Gates have been installed, but room was left so OHVs and snowmobiles can get around.