Campground & Trail News
by Dawn Ballou
July 1, 2004
Here are the latest conditions for campgrounds and trails from the Forest Service, BLM and Sublette County Sheriff's Office for you folks planning on coming up for the 4th of July holiday weekend.
FIREWORKS:The first thing everyone wants to emphasize is: NO FIREWORKS! PERIOD. Fireworks are prohibited year-round on all public and private land in Sublette County. No sparklers, caps, rockets, or absolutely any fireworks anywhere in the county. But to make up for that, the towns of Pinedale and Big Piney/Marbleton will have their annual town fireworks displays by the Volunteer Fire Deparments at dusk. In Pinedale, they'll shoot off the fireworks from the baseball diamonds on the hill behind the Clinic/Museum. They can be seen from about any place in town, but a lot of folks like to park either in Faler's parking lot or over in the school cafeteria/Wrangler Gym parking lot for a good clear view. It's always a great display with a lot of variety of colorful fireworks!
TRAILS: "It is exceptionally wet everywhere" is what the Forest Service at the Pinedale Ranger District office is saying. Despite being the 6th year of a drought, we've had very frequent thunderstorms over the past several weeks that have brought in a lot of rain and created very wet conditions across the Bridger-Teton National Forest. There are places that actually have saturated ground conditions causing problems with trees toppling over with any significant wind storm. All the major passes are still snowed in, with drifts up to 6 feet still in places up high. Snow is still blocking trails into the entire Titcomb Basin area. Hikers will hit snow two miles into the Bridger Wilderness from Elkhart Park, five miles from the trailhead. Jackass Pass and Cirque of the Towers still have snow. Hikers can get through these high passes if they are prepared for snow, but stock parties may have difficulty getting through. All streams, rivers are very high right now with rain run-off, so expect high, fast water at any trail crossings.
There are also a lot of down trees across trails throughout the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Trail crews are slowly getting to them, but we're told hikers can expect down trees on about every trail from about every trailhead. Meadow Lake and Burnt Lake trails have hundreds of trees down right now. Green River Lakes area trails are pretty well cleared. Hikers can probably get around this, but anyone who wants to bring stock animals might want to stop by the nearest District office for the latest conditions on any trails they want to take on the forest before they head out. If we get any significant wind in the future, expect more downfall in areas where beetles have killed or weakened trees.
Back-country users should expect:
Wet trails with lots of mud
Lots of snow at higher elevations.
Lots of downed trees
High water crossings
Mosquitoes and biting bugs
Six years of drought and bark beetle infestations have weakend or stressed many trees forest-wide on the Bridger-Teton National Forest. That, in combination with the wet spring creating saturated ground conditions and occasional high winds from thunderstorm downdrafts, has caused a lot of trees to topple over on the forest. Green River Lakes (GRL) campground has been closed since Memorial Day while crews work to clear fallen and hazard trees from the campground area. Green River Lakes campground will be partially open as of July 2 for the holiday weekend. One loop will open up for the 4th of July holiday weekend, but another will remain closed as timber removal operations continue in the campground. All other areas including the boat launch and road, trailhead parking and access, restrooms, and corrals are OPEN at GRL. Boulder Lake campground is "camp at your own risk" due to dead and hazard trees. Tree removal operations will begin there sometime soon too. For now, the Forest Service isn't closing other campgrounds due to possible tree fall, just advising visitors to pick their camping spots carefully away from any questionable trees. There are plenty of nearby dispersed areas, and campground units in more open areas, to choose from.
All roads across the county and Bridger-Teton National Forest are open now, including Union Pass. Some might be a bit wet in places at higher elevations. For backcountry roads, two tracks, and places to go 4-wheeling, stop by the nearest Forest Service Ranger Station office to get a travel map to see where open and closed roads are for the area you wish to go. All roads on National Forest are either gravel or dirt. Main highways coming in are paved. Those with RVs who don't know the area might check with the FS about road conditions for anything off the main road they want to get to. Some of the more remote roads are not suitable for sedans or RVs and require high-clearance vehicles. It is always advisable to make sure you have a full tank of gas before heading out on back roads, as well as a good spare tire.
Bears have been out for some time now, both black and grizzly. All forest users are reminded that a Food Storage Order is in effect and all food must be properly stored and garbage sanitized anywhere on the Forest, especially in the backcountry. The Upper Green and Bridger Wilderness are all grizzly bear habitat. This spring a griz was accidentally shot and killed just 15 miles from Pinedale north of Half Moon Lake. We have yet to have any bear/human encounters in many years in the county, but they certainly have no problem dining on sheep and cattle that graze allotments in the forest. Oh, and there are wolves too.
PERMITS FOR GROUPS IN THE BRIDGER WILDERNESS:
The Forest Service also asked us to remind anyone who plans to head into the Bridger Wilderness as a organized group, or with stock animals, that permits are required before going in. Church groups, boy scouts, youth groups, etc. all should check in with the District office before heading up to get the free permit. The Pinedale Ranger District has wilderness regulations posted on the Bridger-Teton National Forest web site, Wilderness Regulations. All groups are reminded that they must camp at least 200 feet away from lakes and trails. The Sublette County Sheriff's Office has a Wilderness Check-In form that visitors can fill out in case of emergency. This information is extremely helpful to search and rescue workers if you fail to return at the designated time and place to give searchers a starting place to begin rescue efforts.
Fire Danger is currently LOW due to the recent rains. Despite that, six years of drought and beetle infestations have really taken a toll on large portions of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. You can have a campfire right now, but please make sure it is extinguished before you leave camp for any length of time, even if just going out for a short walk down the trail. Never leave a burning campfire unattended. Going along with that, as things dry out and we get more lightning strikes with the thunderstorms, keep an eye out for smoke columns that might be a wildfire. Report possible wildfires to the Sublette County Sheriff's office or local Forest Service office so they can dispatch crews to check it out as quickly as possible.
The Pinedale Ranger District office is located next to Faler's General Store (the one with the big fish on top) on the east side of town, 307-367-4326. They are open Monday through Friday for normal business hours as well as on Saturdays. For businesses and services, contact the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce, www.sublettechamber.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the above, the Sheriff's Department also reminds folks, "Don't drink & drive".