More Malibu Creek Flooding (January 2023)

Malibu Creek near M*A*S*H site following January 2023 flooding
Malibu Creek near M*A*S*H site

Remember that shiny, new bridge on the Crags Road Trail that made it easy to cross Malibu Creek? Well, it’s gone, gone, gone — washed away by high flows on January 9, 2023. State Parks has built and rebuilt several bridges here. All that remains is a massive block of concrete used as a foundation.

I was just a couple of miles into an extended version of the Bulldog Loop. The temperature was in the mid-30s, and once again, I was having to cross Malibu Creek on a makeshift bridge of wobbly limbs and debris.

Flood debris on the Crags Road Trail January 2023
Flood debris on the Crags Road Trail

The flood was the result of a series of three increasingly wet storms between December 30 and January 10. During that period, the Malibu Canyon RAWS recorded about 13 inches of rain. In the last storm of the series, 6 inches of rain was recorded in about 33 hours.

The flooding along the Crags Road Trail from the Forest Trail junction to the M*A*S*H site was similar to the February 2017 and December 2021 events. In the January 2023 event, more debris was deposited on the trail, and sections of the trail were obliterated. That stretch of trail is popular, and a new use trail is already taking shape.

Rainfall and runoff were even higher in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. The Rose Valley RAWS recorded over 22 inches of rain for the three storms. According to preliminary streamflow data, the Ventura River Near Ventura reached a new record stage height of 25.42 feet on January 9. The Sespe Creek Near Fillmore gage malfunctioned at the peak flow but reached at least 20.38 feet.

Some relate posts: Malibu Creek December 2021 Floods, Malibu Creek Flooding, Southern California Creeking

Looking for Storm Damage in Point Mugu State Park

Boney Mountain crags

Continuing the theme of checking out local trails following the December 2022 – January 2023 series of rainstorms, this morning I did a trail run/hike from the Wendy Drive Trailhead in Newbury Park.

Vernal stream on the Chamberlain segment of the Backbone Trail
Vernal stream on the Chamberlain segment of the Backbone Trail

I was able to check out several trails — and get in a little climbing — by doing Sandstone Peak via Boney Mountain’s Western Ridge and Tri Peaks and then returning by way of the Backbone Trail, Big Sycamore Canyon, and the Upper Sycamore Trail.

The surprising headline is that the trails on this route held up better than expected. Although there was a lot of rain, the rain rates in this area must not have been excessive. Generally, it looked like streams were able to handle the runoff.

It didn’t come out of it unscathed, but the Blue Canyon segment of the Backbone Trail was less damaged than usual. Some route-finding through the cobble was required, but a new use trail was already starting to emerge. I was also surprised to see that several oft-repaired sections of the Upper Sycamore Trail were mostly intact. There was a lot of creek hopping on these trails, but it was good to hear the burble and gurgle of the rejuvenated streams.

This section of Old Boney segment of the Backbone Trail repaired by the SMMTC withstood the Dec 2022 - Jan 2023 storms.
Section of the Old Boney/Backbone Trail repaired by the SMMTC that withstood the Dec 2022 – Jan 2023 storms.

Work done by the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council prevented additional damage. In the past, a section of Old Boney segment of the Backbone Trail between the Chamberlain Trail junction and Blue Canyon has always had significant problems following rainstorms. Water would run down the trail, eroding ruts and exposing rocks. In one place, most of the trail had collapsed into the canyon. Thanks to the SMMTC, I ran it today without a second thought. A steep section of the Backbone Trail above Chamberlain Rock, repaired by the SMMTC, also held up well.

Speaking of which… As I was running down the Chamberlain Trail, I’d noticed some shoe tracks that were also headed down. This was a bit odd because there weren’t any tracks coming up. The puzzle was solved when I caught up to three hikers near Chamberlain Rock. They had also done the Western Ridge of Boney Mountain and were going to complete the loop via Sycamore Canyon.

Here is an interactive, 3D terrain view of a GPS track (yellow) to Sandstone Peak from Wendy Drive via Boney Mountain’s Western Ridge and Tri Peaks, then returning via Big Sycamore Canyon and the Upper Sycamore Trail. Two alternate routes are also shown (red). To change the view, use the control on the upper right side of the screen. Track and placename locations are approximate and subject to errors. Poor weather and other conditions may make this route unsuitable for this activity.

Some related posts: Looking for Boney Mountain, Pt. Mugu State Park Debris Flows and Flash Floods (December 2014), Sandstone Peak from Wendy Drive

Popular Trails in Topanga State Park Damaged by Winter Storms

Mudslide on Fire Road #30 below the Hub in Topanga State Park
Mudslide on Fire Road #30 below the Hub

Several popular trails and fire roads in Topanga State Park have been damaged by the cumulative effects of Winter 2022-2023 rainstorms.

Since December 1, 2022, the Topanga Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) has recorded nearly 16 inches of rain. The most rainfall occurred January 9-10, when about 5.4 inches was measured.

On Sunday, January 15, I did an exploratory trail run from the Top of Reseda that took me through some popular areas of the Park. This included Fire Road #30, the Hub, Temescal Peak, Temescal Lookout, Temescal Ridge Fire Road, Eagle Springs Fire Road, Eagle Rock Fire Road, the Garapito Trail, and the Bent Arrow Trail.

There were numerous mudslides on the fire roads. The larger slides were on Fire Road #30 below the Hub and Temescal Ridge Fire Road between the Backbone Trail junction and Temescal Lookout. There was also significant roadbed and shoulder erosion in places. At the time, all were passable on foot.

The trails were a different matter. Unfortunately, much of the repair work done on the Bent Arrow Trail following last year’s rain was damaged or destroyed.

The Garapito Trail was blocked in two places on the upper part of the trail. One problem was from a sluff of soil and brush sliding onto the trail. The other was from the collapse of a section of trail. These were a problem. There were additional sluffs, limbs, and washouts on the trail that were passable at the time.

Update February 5, 2023.  The Bent Arrow Trail is closed. Fire Road #30, Eagle Springs Fire Road, and East Topanga Fire Road to Parker Mesa had all been cleared. The Musch Trail was eroded in spots but OK. Use of the Garapito Trail has moderated its condition. Some brush had been cleared and paths have evolved through the sections of collapsed trail. Extra care is required in some spots.

Here are a few photos taken along the way.

Other trails and fire roads in Topanga State Park likely had similar impacts. I would expect, like last year, sections of the Santa Ynez Trail lower in the canyon to be washed out.

Related post: Trippet Ranch Loop Plus the Santa Ynez Trail

Downtown Los Angeles (USC) Already at 94% of Normal Annual Rainfall

Loss Angeles Basin with storm approaching
Increasing clouds over the Los Angeles Basin

La Ninas are fickle beasts, and particularly in a time of climate change, the existence of La Nina conditions in the equatorial Pacific is no guarantee of a dry rain season in Southern California.

According to preliminary rainfall data, from December 1, 2022, to January 16, 2023, Downtown Los Angeles (USC) recorded 11.01 inches of rain. This was 77% of the normal rainfall for an entire year.

This brings the Rain Year total precipitation for Los Angeles up to 13.38 inches — the sixth wettest for the date going back to 1877 — and 94% of the normal ANNUAL rainfall.

Crow Meetup on Eagle Springs Road

Winter congregation of crows along Eagle Springs Fire Road in Topanga State Park

It was the day before the strongest of a series of Pacific storms was forecast to move into Southern California. It would add several inches of rain to an already impressive total. I was curious to see how the trails and roads in Topanga State Park were holding up before the big one hit.

I’d just run up Fire Road #30 to the Hub and was part way down Eagle Springs Fire Road when I heard the caw, caw, cawing of hundreds of crows. They were everywhere — perched on burned branches of chaparral, on the road, and soaring overhead. Anywhere I looked, there were crows.

Here is a very short (19-second) video of the crow congregation.

The run went well. Most of the mud could be avoided, and I didn’t have to wade through any puddles or creeks. Except for the Bent Arrow Trail, the damage to the roads and trails at this point wasn’t too bad. But that was going to change.

Related posts: Winter Colony of Crows in Cheeseboro Canyon, Congregating Crows on Lasky Mesa, Trippet Ranch Loop Plus Temescal Peak

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