The recent spate of muddy trails has yet again raised the question of when and when not to ride a trail that’s muddy and what riders can all do to make sure trails don’t get damaged too badly.
COTA trail maintenance and construction mavan Chris Kratsch weights in the subject below.
“The first thought most people have is ‘Mud in Central Oregon.’ While it true we live in a desert and for most of the year our trails are bone dry and if we do receive rain in the summertime it only improves trail conditions. However, in the winter and spring that situation is different, as our soils become saturated and frozen. Along comes a warm front or the spring thaw and we’re all psyched to head out to ride our bikes or go for a run. The trouble is as the top layers of trail start to thaw out it becomes muddy as there is nowhere for the water to go but to the surface. While other parts of our state laugh at what we call mud, the fact is the same issues arise on both sides of the Cascades. For some trails mud riding is acceptable for others it is not because of their sensitivity to lasting damage.
In Central Oregon the trails west of Bend, such as the River Trail, Phil’s area, Shevlin Park and Peterson Ridge are those sensitive trails. Due to the thaw cycle they can be very soft in places and when we use them we leave behind tire ruts and post-holes. Those trails are particularly sensitive because they are composed of a high ash content soil, when it dries it leaves ruts that harden like concrete. Those hardened ruts tend to break down as the trail dries out as we head into summer and this is where corners blow out, the trail gets widened and swales are created which hold more mud the ensuing winter.
So what, everyone else is riding muddy trails? While true the first tracks are most damaging, those that follow do make a significant impact. Why is that? Often riders, hikers and runners when they encounter a muddy rutted section of trail go around it thereby widening or changing the course of the existing trails. We are not only lucky, but have worked very hard to have such a large network of great flowing trails, but widening and rerouting those trails takes away from all of our experience of enjoying single track trails.
So what can and should you do?
Winter and early season riding areas include:
Resources for winter trails: