Downward Slide

On May 20, more than a million tons of earth slid at Mud Creek, pictured from above, according to Caltrans.

In southern Big Sur, Highway 1 will be closed for a very long time.

According to Caltrans, at 9:30pm on May 20, the landslide at Mud Creek – about 9 miles north of the county line – sent millions of cubic yards of earth onto the highway and into the ocean. Caltrans spokeswoman Susana Cruz says the slide is between a quarter – to a half-mile long.

“The way slides work is they can be dormant many years, and one year they just get going,” she says. “That was the case for Mud [Creek].”

Cruz says there are multiple springs flowing out of the slide area, making the the soil “slushy and muddy,” and that it’s too soon to estimate when the slide will be cleared and the road repaired. She adds that she expects that the California Coastal Commission will allow Caltrans to leave the sediment that spilled below the highway in its place – as opposed to forcing Caltrans to haul it away – where it’s essentially created a new shoreline jutting out into the sea.

Cruz says no one she’s talked to has ever seen or heard of a bigger slide in Big Sur, and adds that there may be more to come.

“It’s not uncommon for slide activity to occur in May,” she says. “It could still be a really big month of activity.”

News is better up north: Cruz adds that progress is being made to reopen the highway at Paul’s Slide – which is about 12 miles north of Mud Creek – by some time in late June, and that the new Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge should be open in mid – to late September, allowing for access to Big Sur from the north.

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