U.S. Highway 50, California

Science Center Objects

Real-time Data

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Eldorado National Forest, has installed monitoring instruments on the Cleveland Corral landslide that has the potential to affect Highway 50. Data from these instruments are used to detect changes in local conditions including

Sensors are sampled every second and data are transmitted from the landslide to a USGS computer every 10 minutes.

Project Background

During January 1997, several large landslides closed Highway 50 between Placerville and South Lake Tahoe, California. The photograph below shows the catastrophic Mill Creek landslide that closed Highway 50 for 4 weeks. A number of other landslides are episodically active in this corridor during wet years.

The Highway 50 landslide monitoring system uses data acquisition systems and radio telemetry developed by the USGS Volcano Hazards Program to operate in remote, hazardous sites with limited power. In many landslides, infiltration of rainfall or rapid snowmelt increases groundwater pressures. These elevated pressures can, in turn, trigger landslide movement.

A person looking across the valley using a laser scanning the entire Cleveland Corral landslide.

Laser scanning the entire Cleveland Corral landslide from across the valley during an active spring (2010).  Repeat scans are used to detect movement throughout the slide. (Credit: Ben Brooks. Public domain.)

Toe of the active Cleveland Corral landslide in 2011

Toe of the active Cleveland Corral landslide in 2011, perched above US Highway 50 in distance.  Movement typically only occurs during wet winter and spring months. (Credit: Mark Reid, USGS. Public domain.)