Posts Tagged ‘Payson’

Fossil Creek Road closed through Summer

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

The Payson Roundup is reporting that the Forest Service intends to extend the ongoing closure of Fossil Creek Road (going west from Strawberry down across the creek). According to the article (and all quotes below are from this article):

The soaring popularity of the pristine, restored travertine-rich stream has drawn a flood of weekend visitors to Payson, but also resulted in piles of litter, illegal campfires and fears of stream pollution.

[…]

The order said the closure would “provide for the public’s health and safety because of the treacherous and unsafe road conditions resulting from geologic instability on rock walls resulting in frequent rock falls and slides into the road. Also, to provide for the public’s and employees’ health and safety considerations of traffic gridlock along the Fossil Creek Corridor.”

Important to note that the main trail to the upper part of the creek – and the springs – is still open.

The steep Fossil Creek Trail will remain open. But that could increase the already substantial number of summer rescues on the arduous, waterless climb out of the canyon. Many people will likely arrive to find the road closed and be tempted to hike down the trail in flip flops without adequate water, a recurrent theme in last year’s rescues.

Maybe they should read my guidebook. 

Payson and the other Rim communities are pissed:

“They’ve taken the sledge hammer to hit the pin on the wall,” said Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce Manager John Stanton.

“What worries me is that this is coming out of (the Tonto National Forest headquarters) in Phoenix or Washington, D.C. and we have no control. Talk about a door slamming.”

To be fair, it’s a forest road going through the national forest. It would be unike the feds to ask permission, or even make a prompt decision.

This summer, the Forest Service projected that Fossil Creek would attract 60,000 visitors, making it a rival to the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park as the region’s top tourist draw.

The Forest Service set up a special team to develop the master plan for future use of Fossil Creek, but hasn’t yet released the results of that effort.

[…]

[Stanton adds,] “Part of the problem in Fossil Creek is of our own making: People have destroyed the place. So now we have to figure out what to do. (The Chamber) has a retreat on Friday to see if there’s anything we can do — at least protest to the Payson Ranger District.”

Years ago, covering the restoration of Fossil Creek fr the now defunct Inside/Outside Magazine, I wrote:

The resurrection of Fossil Springs is a feat of human community as rare and amazing as a river in the desert. Optimists might say it is a new paradigm of things to come, while pessimists point out that, by weight of history, this is simply an aberration. I say dip your feet in the water while you can, because the state’s population growth accelerates while the budgets of agencies which manage the wilderness continue to shrink.

Like all streams in the wilderness, Fossil Creek is endangered by the very people who enjoy it the most. Unless we reverse our attitudes about beer cans and Styrofoam coolers and disposable diapers, a hundred years from now, another extraordinary coalition will be forced come together to restore the creek — again.

The Resurrection of Fossil Creek”  Inside/Outside, June 2007.

I was wrong, of course. We will destroy that place in well under 10 years, much less 100.

 

Tonto News Round-up September 2009

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Payson is burning!

No – not really. But it came close last Monday when the Wagon Wheel Fire torched the forest around Diamond Point, north of Payson and south of the RIm. This has forced some closures of roads and campgrounds.

You can track the fire management progress here.

A Lion in Kofa

AZ Game and Fish caught and killed the lion that had been killing off bighorn sheep in the Kofa Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona. The lion, a male fitted with a telemetry collar, was known to have killed 15 bighorn sheep, 11 within the predation management area, since being collared in late February. The Kofa herds, which once numbered as high as 800 in 2000 are now estimated at around 430 animals. The lion was tracked down in  the nearby Eagletail Mountains.

“This one lion was averaging a bighorn sheep kill every 10 days,” said Pat Barber, supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Region IV office in Yuma. “At that rate, an estimated 37 bighorn sheep would have been lost to this lion in a year.”

With other mountain lions remaining in the Kofa  region, Game and Fish biologists will continue to take an active role in monitoring bighorn sheep losses attributed to predation.

“The goal is not to remove all mountain lions from the management area, but to limit predation until the sheep population recovers,” said Barber. “Mountain lion populations throughout the state are healthy and they are neither rare, threatened or at risk. The same can’t be said for this bighorn sheep population.”

Public Lands Day Volunteer Opportunities

In addition to the calls for help published in the last news round-up, a variety of agencies are collaborating in cleaning up the Boulders OHV area on September 26 (Public Lands Day). The Boulders OHV area is located along State Route 74 (mile marker 11.5) from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. To get to the Boulders from the Phoenix area, head north on I-17 to the Highway 74 exit (exit 223), then head west on Hwy 74 to mile marker 11.5. Go north 1 mile to the staging area. Road access into the area is good for most vehicles.

The public is encouraged to volunteer (under the terms of an agency agreement) to assist with clean-up, outreach and sign installation activities. Volunteers are asked to bring gloves, snacks and water.

Cycle Gear, a motorsports gear store, will have prizes for top volunteer efforts. The Arizona Trails Riders will be conducting courtesy vehicle sound testing and will help repack mufflers. The Arizona OHV Coalition and OHV Ambassadors will provide you with maps and informational materials. The Arizona Game and Fish Department will have their mobile OHV learning center on hand to help inform the public of the new OHV laws as well as places to ride.

What could be more fun?
Federal stimulus dollars to help Arizona wildlife

[Below is verbatim from the press release – TP]
Funds to employ rural contractors and purchase Arizona products

The Arizona Game and Fish Department Landowner Relations Program (LRP) will use $110,000 in economic stimulus funds to actively support private land improvements that will benefit both wildlife and the people of Arizona. These dollars came to the department from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Grassland restorations, riparian area protection and pond improvements are just a few of the four or five new projects that could be completed in the next year because of these funds. The projects must also benefit federal trust species that includes things like migratory birds, threatened or endangered species, and to improve water quality.

Landowner Relations Program Manager Sal Palazzolo said, “Projects that can put greater numbers of people to work will probably get chosen over others. For example, it takes lots of people and materials to put in a new fence as opposed to a project that might only take one or two people.”

For more information about the Arizona Game and Fish Department Landowner Relations Program go online to www.azgfd.gov/outdoor_recreation/landowner_relation.shtml

Doe shot with arrow and left to die

The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Operation Game Thief program is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the individual(s) responsible for illegally killing a doe.

Game and Fish personnel are investigating a case in which a doe was shot with an arrow and left to die during the deer opener on Aug. 21 at approximately 10:45 a.m. The incident took place in Game Management Unit 20A along Senator Highway between mileposts 6 and 7, just north of the 307 hiking trail. The location is six or seven miles south of downtown Prescott.

Hell’s Gate

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Hell’s Gate Trail #37 leads in and out of one of the best swimming holes in the Tonto, at the bottom of the canyon where Tonto Creek flows in Haigler Creek. The approach from either direction is precariously steep, and the march out of Hell’s Gate is an infamous trial of endurance.

This was part 4 of the 10-day Run, where I took a week of vacation and just banged out as many hikes as I could just car-camping across the National Forest.

HIKE DATE: 14 June 2008

COMPANIONS: Rally Toad (a guy from Hike AZ), and Jayson.

START TIME: 9am

END TIME: 3:20pm

ACTUAL MILEAGE: 11.9 miles.

Another hike that got wiped from my DVR, and was reconstructed from notes and memory on the banks of Fossil Creek.

No photos either. Sorry. But if you’re a Hike AZ member you can see Rally Toad’s photos here.

Most people do this as an out and back from the Hell’s Gate Ridge (north) trailhead, and a lot of them spend the night. That half of the trail was fairly crowded (of course, it was a weekend), and I’m certain that all the campsites filled up at the bottom of the canyon. We had the southern half the the trail, going out south towards Smoky Hollow TH to ourselves.

The FS info on Smoky Hollow TH neglects to mention that any road there is unmaintained, and you need HC at least, and a 4WD if there’s any moisture in the dirt.

We were able to do this because Jayson, who is a 4WD enthusiast, agreed to pick us up there that afternoon. We beat him to the top by a couple of hours (he got lost), so while we were waiting under a juniper tree, a real-live cowboy came over the ridge with a horse, and a rifle, and four dogs. He offered us a ride (his pick-up truck sat a few miles up the road) if our friend didn’t show.

But Jayson made it. The note about the mislabelled forest road going up and around the ridge – that’s Good Advice from (his) Direct Experience.

Two bumpy hours from Smoky Hollow to Hell’s Gate TH, and that’s with a driver who’s fairly aggressive with his Xterra. Plan for longer if you fear death and such.

And so you know, the dining options in Young are slim. Rally Toad hopped off the bus at the TH, because he had to be back in civilization. We pushed on to a Mexican restaurant in Payson, where I was happy to pick up the tab.