The Gila and Aldo Leopold Wilderness areas and other areas of the Gila National Forest will re-open on August 9, 2013, at 6:00 a.m. Wildfire activity in 2012 plus after-fire effects such as flooding, burned hazard trees, and soil erosion had caused the temporary closure of trails in the Gila Wilderness. As Silver Fire activity progressed on the Aldo Leopold this summer, the entire wilderness was also closed.
“I am pleased to announce that these previously closed areas will soon be open for recreationists and hunters alike. When visiting these burned areas, visitors are asked to be alert and to use extreme caution especially when rain is forecast as flooding and flashfloods can easily occur. Camping is not advised near rivers, creeks, arroyos, or in flood plains located within or adjacent to burned areas due to flood potential,” says Forest Supervisor Kelly Russell.
In a burned area, fires weaken and kill trees. They can easily fall from weakened root systems with only a slight breeze. Rolling rocks are a hazard as rain or snowmelt loosens soil and vegetation that may be holding them along the upper slopes. Lack of vegetation also contributes to high runoffs from rain or snowmelt so flooding can happen at any time with just a little rain, even if the rain occurs far upstream. Tree roots and stumps can be dangerous as the only evidence may be a thick layer of ash or soil. Unsuspecting visitors can step on one and end up with their foot and leg in a deep hole.
Forest trails have not been maintained in many cases within the burned areas so they may be impassable due to fallen trees or rocks, or from being washed out and hard to locate. Snags (standing dead trees) will likely be found along many trails.
With the re-opening of closed areas, some trails, campgrounds, and Forest Roads remain temporarily closed due primarily to effects from flooding. These closures include:
• Kingston, Lower Gallinas, and Iron Creek Campgrounds along NM Highway 152
• Willow Creek, Gilita, Ben Lilly, and South Fork Negrito Campgrounds on the Reserve Ranger District
• Forest roads closed to vehicle traffic include Silver Creek Road # 523; Middle Percha Road #40E; and Quaking Aspen Road #537
• Forest trails: Silver Creek #146; Spring Canyon #721, Mimbres River #77 & 78
• Portions of the Catwalk National Recreation Trail
Check with the local Ranger District office for current information on all areas.
As soon as the N.M. Department of Transportation (NMDOT) finishes needed maintenance work along NM 152, it will be re-opened. Bursum Road remains closed as NMDOT is finishing work on it as well.