Thursday, July 2, 2015

Old Fall River Road Opens For The Season

This morning at 11:00 a.m., Senator Cory Gardner, Congressman Jared Polis and Federal Highways Administration Division Director Ric Suarez joined park superintendent Vaughn Baker to open Old Fall River Road for the season.

In September of 2013, Rocky Mountain National Park received a record amount of rainfall. Damage in the park was wide spread on the east side of the Continental Divide. Damage was extensive on Old Fall River Road and the Alluvial Fan area. The road was closed to vehicles after the flood in 2013 and during the summer of 2014. The opening of Old Fall River Road is a significant milestone in the recovery of the flood of 2013.

The Federal Highways Administration funded this $4 million project through the Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads (ERFO) program.

Old Fall River Road is a historic dirt road built between 1913 and 1920. Due to the winding, narrow nature of the road, the scenic 9.4-mile route is one-way. It follows the steep slope of Mount Chapin's south face. Normally the road is open from the fourth of July to early October.

For further information about Rocky Mountain National Park, please call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1363 or visit


Plan Ahead When Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park This Summer

Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular destination. This year the park is celebrating its centennial. Over the last 100 years, the reasons people visit are the same; to experience nature, to seek solitude, to enjoy scenic grandeur, to watch wildlife, and to partake in outstanding recreational activities.

At the end of May, year to date visitation was up 20 percent over last year when the park received record visitation of 3.4 million. The trend of increased visitation has continued in June as well. June figures should be released by next week. Rocky was the fifth most visited national park in 2014. The park's highest visitation is during the summer and on fall weekends.

Plan ahead for a more enjoyable visit to Rocky! In the summer, the busiest times in the park are between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. here are a few other tips:

* Hike early or hike late

* Check the weather forecast before you arrive at the park to better plan your day and destinations. If you plan to hike later in the day, it is critical that you know the weather forecast for the elevation of your destination.

* Carpool

* Take advantage of the park shuttle

* Trailhead parking lots fill early in the day:

* Glacier Gorge Trailhead by 7:00 a.m.

* Bear Lake Trailhead by 8:30 a.m.

* Park & Ride by 10:30 a.m.

* Wild Basin Corridor by 10:30 a.m.

* If you want to hike in the Bear Lake corridor and plan to arrive after 11, your best option is to take the Hiker Shuttle from Estes Park

* The Alpine Visitor Center parking lot is busy between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

* More than eighty percent of park visitors arrive through the east entrances of the park

* Camping is popular in the park. Reserve a campsite up to six months before your visit. The two first come, first served campgrounds fill up as well. Timber Creek Campground fills up last.

* In September, visitation is 50 percent higher on weekends than weekdays

* Two new webcams are now operating on the Beaver Meadows Entrance and Fall River Entrance. The webcams face east, depicting the flow of vehicles entering the park.

Park staff are working with the Town of Estes Park and Colorado Department of Transportation to operate two new variable message signs on US 34 and US 36 encouraging visitors to select an east side park entrance based on their destination. If visitors have purchased an annual pass to Rocky Mountain National Park, the Beaver Meadows entrance has a fast pass lane. The Grand Lake entrance also has a fast pass lane.

The remaining fee free days for the season are Tuesday, August 25, and Saturday, September 26. These days are determined by the Department of the Interior. These are typically very busy days.

For further information about Rocky Mountain National Park, please call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1363 or visit the park website. For more information on accommodations, hiking and other thing to do in Rocky Mountain National Park, please click here.


Throwback Thursday

Mariposa Grove was one of the first federally protected tracts of land in the world. In 1864 Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, which deeded the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees to the state of California for protection as a forest reserve. Due to concern over damage from livestock and logging, John Muir led a movement to establish a larger national park that encompassed the surrounding mountains and forests. However, when Yosemite National Park was established on October 1, 1890, it excluded the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove. In 1903 Muir took President Theodore Roosevelt on a three-day camping trip near Glacier Point. During the trip Muir convinced Roosevelt to take control of the valley and the grove away from California. Finally, on June 11, 1906, Roosevelt signed a bill that would merge the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove with Yosemite National Park.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Two Search And Rescue Incidents Conducted In Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue Team members responded to two separate incidents on Sunday, June 28th.

At 9:30 a.m. rangers were notified by cell phone that Chris LeGault, 48, from Lyons, Colorado, had taken a reported 50 foot fall while backcountry skiing on Sundance Mountain. LeGault had landed in rocks suffering numerous injuries. Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue personnel reached him at 11:45 a.m. They performed a technical evacuation lowering LeGault through snow, rocks and dense brush eventually reaching Old Fall River Road at 7:30 p.m. He was taken by ambulance to Estes Park Medical Center. Twenty personnel were involved in this rescue. Park search and rescue team members were assisted by two members of Douglas County Search and Rescue.

At noon, park rangers were notified by cell phone that Jesse Keller, 24, from Fort Collins, Colorado, had taken a reported 150 foot tumbling fall down The Homestretch on the Keyhole Route on Longs Peak. Rangers were able to speak with Keller and he indicated he had suffered injuries but would attempt to continue down on his own. Rangers left the Longs Peak Trailhead with the intent to assist Keller on the way down. Their efforts were hampered by severe weather and lightning. Rangers reached Keller at 8:30 p.m. at the Keyhole. They assisted him through The Boulder Field and spent the night in the Boulder Field with him. At 8:00 a.m. yesterday morning Fuller was flown by Lifeguard One to Medical Center of the Rockies. Park Search and Rescue Team members reached the trailhead at 11:00 a.m. yesterday morning where they were assisted by four members of Larimer County Search and Rescue.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Exotic Weed Pull Event Scheduled For Saturday In Rocky

On Saturday June 27, join Rocky Mountain National Park staff and Estes Land Stewardship Association (ELSA) from 8 a.m. to noon to help pull exotic plants and learn more about noxious weeds. Meet at the corner of High Drive and Columbine Drive to sign in and test your skills in weed identification. Tools and water will be provided. Last year almost thirty people participated to tackle, dig, and pull noxious weeds!

One of the many challenges land managers face is the threat that invasive exotic plants or noxious weeds present. Invasive exotic plants can upset natural processes and often use that "strategy" to spread. Exotic weeds are not native to the area they are invading. As a result, they frequently have few effective predators, competitors, parasites, or diseases. They can spread across a landscape quickly and replace native species that have important functions in the ecosystem.

Exotic weeds upset natural processes in a variety of ways. Some are poisonous if consumed by wildlife. Some release compounds into the soil to prevent the seeds of other plants from germinating. Some produce such thick aggregations of plants, they shade out native plants. This can disrupt other native species such as butterflies and other pollinators.

For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park please contact the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206.


Throwback Thursday

The first automobile to make the drive to the Grand Canyon began its journey on January 4, 1902. Anticipating that the 60-mile drive would take only four hours, Oliver Lippincott, along with a guide and two writers from Los Angeles, left Flagstaff without any extra food or water. Unfortunately their Toledo Steamer, a 10-horse power engine built by the Toledo Automobile Company, really wasn’t ready for the rough drive as they traveled cross-country without roads, and broke down several times. Two days later, the hungry and dehydrated party finally arrived at their destination at the Grandview Hotel on the South Rim. Three years later a three-day drive from Utah was required to reach the North Rim for the first time.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Higher Prices and Limited Access Coming to a Park Near You

Perhaps the title to this blog might be construed as being highly provocative, but reality tells me that many of the trends I'm seeing are already pointing in these directions. Please note that I'm in no way advocating for either of these as possible solutions to perceived problems, but rather simply pointing out where I believe our national parks are headed.

The perceived problem among many within and outside of our national park system is that our parks and recreational areas have become overcrowded. One only has to look at the almost constant gridlock in Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains, or the over-crowded parking at the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain, or the congestion on Yellowstone's roads throughout the summer, to see that the pundits and park managers may have a point. As further evidence, you may also recall that our national parks saw record breaking crowds in 2014.

As a result of many factors, including increased visitation, almost every major national park has raised entrance fees over the last several months. Other parks and national forest lands, such as the Great Smoky Mountains, have instituted, or have increased backcountry camping fees.

This past May Glacier National Park announced a public comment period for a series of alternatives they're proposing to manage the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor. Included among those proposals to manage congestion on the road are to "utilize a timed entry system or reservation system during peak season" and "require day hike permits on some trails during peak season".

It's pretty clear to me that the wheels are already in motion for raising fees and limiting access to high traffic areas.

What prompted this blog posting was an interview I heard the other night on the nationally syndicated John Batchelor Show. The host interviewed Terry Anderson from the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana, who has put forth several possible solutions to overcrowding in our parks and recreational areas. The 10 minute segment starts at roughly the 19:25 mark in this podcast if you wish to listen to the interview. You can also read the original article, which sparked the interview, as published in the Montana Standard.