Cook Lake Slope Stability Monitoring

Using technology to ensure area safety while preserving natural beauty.

Cook Lake Recreational Area, Sundance, Wyoming
Black Hills National Forest Service

The beautiful Cook Lake Recreation Area is 25 miles east of Devils Tower near Sundance, Wyoming. Traveling to the lake’s secluded campground requires a 20-mile drive on gravel roads. Unfortunately, the area’s landslide issues have threatened accessibility, and as a result, the lake has been closed several times in the past.

In 1997, the southwest slope of Cook Lake underwent a massive slope failure. Nearly 10 years later, survey data indicated that the landslide was still exhibiting some movement.  In 2016, the Black Hills National Forest Service selected RESPEC to design a solution. Our primary goal was to design and install a real-time monitoring and warning system to protect people at the recreational area and downstream.

RESPEC’s team overcame installation challenges, such as steep, rocky terrain, heavy forestation, limited communication options, and difficult access for drill rigs. We installed rugged and field-proven Campbell Scientific dataloggers and equipment because the project required long term, low maintenance monitoring. We installed tiltmeters at three surface sites and placed deep inclinometers and piezometers in two wells that were drilled through the landslide slip plane. A rain gage was installed at one site to record precipitation. Using spread-spectrum radio, data is transferred across Cook Lake to a repeater site that will not be affected if the landslide becomes active. This repeater further relays data over 8 miles to Warren Peak, where a cellular modem is used to transfer data to a web page and to RESPEC’s servers. The client can log in to the web page and see real-time tilt and precipitation data. Tilt values that exceed preset thresholds indicate ground movement, and will trigger notifications (a text message and email) to the client and to RESPEC. Our solution also allows the client to customize dashboards for data visualization, download data as .csv or .txt files for further analyses, and adjust alarm thresholds.

The RESPEC team is proud to contribute to the Cook Lake Recreation Area’s safety.