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Outdoor enthusiasts worried about fire's impact
Unless you will be staying in a developed campground, don’t plan on having a campfire in Colorado anytime soon.
Gov. John Hickenlooper has enacted a statewide fire ban, meaning fires are allowed only in developed campgrounds, not in the backcountry or the pull-in campsites that line many forest roads.
Some areas have passed stricter regulations. Rocky Mountain National Park has banned all campfires. A ban on all fires in the White River National Forest goes into effect Friday, and unless there is some moisture, other national forests will soon prohibit all fires as well.
Many counties have also passed burn bans for private land. Click here for a county-by-county listing.
When the Springer fire broke out Sunday in the parched mountains near Lake George, hundreds of campers, hikers and anglers were evacuated from Elevenmile Canyon.
It’s a popular weekend getaway spot for Front Range residents.
With the fire growing and largely uncontained, many outdoor enthusiasts are wondering when they will be able to return and what will be left when they do.
“We’re very concerned about it,” said Rick Murphy, sales associate at Colorado Springs fly-fishing shop Angler’s Covey. “If the fire gets into the river, jumps the river, you’re going to have ash in the river. Every time it rains there’s going to be more ash coming down.”
The South Platte River through the canyon is the most popular fly-fishing spot for Colorado Springs anglers, teeming with trout, Murphy said. The fire is burning along the river and firefighters are battling to keep it from jumping to the south side.
Murphy worries about how ash and erosion will impact the river. Fish populations have not fully recovered from the effects of the 2002 Hayman fire in other stretches of the South Platte, and anglers don’t want to see Elevenmile suffer similarly.
“We hope they can keep the fire on the one side (of the river) and we can get back in there probably in a week or two. But at this point, who knows?” Murphy said.
The Elevenmile Recreation Area, run by the U.S. Forest Service, remains closed, said recreation manager Neal Weierbach. Four picnic areas and five national forest campgrounds — Spillway, Cove, Springer Gulch, Riverside and Blue Mountain — are also closed.
Weierbach said the campgrounds and picnic areas have not burned.
Rock climbers are also tracking the fire.
The canyon is a popular climbing spot, known for moderate routes, said Stewart Green, a Colorado Springs climber and author of many climbing guidebooks. He said the flames have hit climbing routes Turret Dome and Messenger Wall and Tuesday were across the river from Arch Rock.
While flames won’t melt the rocks, “The view shed, the trees and forest — the scenic aspects — are definitely going to be affected for climbers,” he said.
“It’s a good venue in the summer because it usually has nice temperatures,” said Green. “Not this week.”
While the canyon is closed, Eleven Mile State Park, two miles away, remains open from the South Park side. Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said some hiking trails, the Coyote Ridge day use area and 25 backcountry campsites are closed because of their proximity to the blaze. The reservoir and other campgrounds are open.
Contact R. Scott Rappold:
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