From a distance of about 10 miles, the slide looked like a funnel, narrowing into a culvert below. It cut a giant channel through trees. The creek that once gradually flowed down the ridge now spurted down like a waterfall. Roads in the area, where some cattle grazed, were muddy from rain.
"How in the devil could this happen?" said Collbran resident Lloyd Power, gazing out at the slide.
He said residents were praying for the missing. "That's all we can do," Power said.
While the surrounding area is popular place for fishing, hiking and camping, the slide hit on land with an access gate that isn't open to the public. No one else is believed missing and no homes were damaged.
Energy companies were monitoring oil and gas wells in the area, part of the productive Piceance Basin, but so far the mud has only come up to the edge of one pad operated by Occidental Petroleum Corp. The three wells there have been shut down, said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association, a trade group.
Hilkey said he'd received a telephone call from authorities in Washington state, where a March 22 landslide swept a square mile of dirt, sand and silt through a neighborhood in Oso, about an hour northeast of Seattle. That slide leveled homes and killed at least 43 people.