Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Second Public Meeting Scheduled on Potential Multiuse Trail System in RMNP

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is preparing a Multiuse Trail Plan with an accompanying Environmental Assessment (EA). RMNP completed a Multiuse Trail Feasibility Study in 2009, for the developed eastern portion of the park. This study confirmed the feasibility of a trail system that would extend approximately 15.5 miles from the Fall River Entrance to Sprague Lake, with potential connections to three visitor centers, three campgrounds, and numerous hiker shuttle stops. The National Park Service is continuing the planning process with the development of a Multiuse Trail Plan/EA, which will examine possible options for multiuse trail alignments and analyze potential environmental impacts.

A public meeting earlier this year (February 19, 2013) introduced the background of this project as well as the purpose of and need for the trail system. Based on the public comments received following that meeting, the 2009 feasibility study, and further field reconnaissance, two potential alternative trail alignments have been identified, along with an alternative that would maintain the status quo. The upcoming meeting will provide the public with a project update and an opportunity to comment on the alternatives developed thus far.

This second public scoping meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 6, 2013, from 4:45 PM to 6:15 PM at the Estes Park Museum, located at 200 4th Street, Estes Park, Colorado. There will be a short presentation at 5:00 p.m., and park staff and the consultant will be available to answer questions until 6:15 p.m.; however, the public is invited to visit at any point during the scheduled time to review materials and provide written comments. More details about the project can be found on the National Park Service (NPS) Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website.

From the home page select "Multi-Use Trail Environmental Assessment." The park is inviting written public comments regarding potential issues and concerns that should be considered during the planning process, and comments can be entered directly on the website listed above. Written comments are requested by the end of the public scoping period on Friday, August 23, 2013.

Although the preferred method to submit comments is through the PEPC website, written comments may be submitted in several ways:

- Comment forms will be available at the public meeting and can be given to park staff at the meeting or mailed later.

- By mail: Superintendent, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO 80517

- By fax: (970) 586-1397

- By email: e-mail us

- Hand-deliver: Rocky Mountain National Park Headquarters, 1000 Highway 36, Estes Park, Colorado.

Once the scoping period concludes, all comments submitted will be considered. There will be an additional opportunity to comment on the Plan/EA when it is released for public review and comment in late spring 2014.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Colorado State Parks Free Admission Day

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will celebrate Colorado Day next Monday, August 5th, by offering free entrance to all 42 state parks.

Colorado Day was created by the state legislature to mark the anniversary of statehood, granted in 1876 by President Ulysses S. Grant. Free entrance at the state parks is an annual Colorado Day tradition.

The state parks, scattered throughout Colorado, showcase the state's diverse landscapes, including the prairies of the eastern plains at John Martin Reservoir State Park, the alpine beauty of the mountains at Sylvan Lake State Park near Eagle and the unique geological landscapes at Roxborough State Park. There are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy Colorado's rivers at James M. Robb-Colorado River State Park near Grand Junction, the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area in Salida and Yampa River State Park near Craig. There’s plenty of outdoor fun at the reservoirs at Trinidad Lake State Park, North Sterling State Park, Lathrop State Park near Walsenburg and Navajo State Park near Durango.

All other fees, including camping and reservations will remain in effect on August 5th.

This Colorado Day, be sure to get out to a state park for a fun-filled day that the whole family can enjoy. For more information, contact your local state park.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lake Isabelle repair and helicopter traffic

Work on Lake Isabelle, located west of the Brainard Lake Recreation Area (BLRA), could start as early as August 1 and last until the end of September. Lefthand Ditch Company (LDC) will use a generator throughout this time frame and haul in equipment intermittently by helicopter to repair the reservoir’s drainage and flow control system. Visitors to the BLRA and Lake Isabelle may see and hear helicopter and equipment operations.

Equipment hauling by helicopter will be limited to ten flight days throughout the possible eight week period of repair work, during mornings of cool, calm days. The parking area at Lefthand Park Reservoir will be closed during helicopter activities. Flight days are weather dependent and advance notice may not be possible. Generator use will occur as needed during LDC work days which include weekends. The more days the crew can work uninterrupted, the shorter the project duration.

Lefthand Ditch Company, who owns the water rights in Lake Isabelle, planned this much needed repair years ago. Work has been repeatedly delayed due to high altitude snow and winter weather conditions. This summer has proven ideal for completing operations in a timely fashion and LDC hopes to finish the project work before winter storms can roll in.

A U.S. Forest Service permit was necessary for LDC to move forward with repair plans, which outlines mitigation measures negotiated to reduce impacts to area resources and visitors. LDC has a long standing easement to the reservoir that predates the 1978 Indian Peaks Wilderness designation by over 50 years.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

On July 30, World Ranger Day Celebrated at Rocky Mountain National Park

The staff of Rocky Mountain National Park invite you to celebrate World Ranger Day as we recognize world conservation areas, and the professional staff, the Rangers, who form the Thin Green Line around these most valuable resources. On Tuesday, July 30, park staff will show "The Thin Green Line" an international ranger documentary made by Australian ranger, Sean Willmore. The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center auditorium in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The International Ranger Federation (IRF) was founded to support the work of Rangers as the key protectors of the world's protected areas. In 2006, at the World Ranger Congress in Scotland, IRF delegates decided that July 31 of each year, beginning in 2007, would be a day dedicated to world rangers. The first World Ranger Day fell on the 15th anniversary of the founding of IRF on July 31, 1992.

In 1872, Yellowstone National Park became the world's first federally designated national park. Since then, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, over 100,000 protected areas, representing more than 10% of the earth's landmass, have been established around the world.

The English word "ranger" reflects the guardians of the Royal Forests in 14th century England, protecting the King's lands from poachers. Today, Rangers in protected areas throughout the world continue this role for the public, not just for the royal families. Rangers are the key force protecting these resources from impairment. They do this through law enforcement, environmental education, community relations, fighting fires, conducting search and rescues, and in many other ways.

You can come show your support for the Rangers of the World at this free program on Tuesday, July 30th, at 7:30 p.m. at Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Devils Causeway

Zion National Park has Angel's Landing. Then of course there's the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon, as well as Half Dome in Yosemite. However, there's a hike in northwestern Colorado that's almost as scary as these trails, though not quite as popular or well known.

The Devil’s Causeway is a narrow strip of land that will cause sheer terror, or awe and thrill, for anyone who dare's to cross it. This “land bridge” in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area of the White River National Forest is roughly 50 feet in length, and narrows to as little as 3 feet in width. On both sides of the rough and rugged trail (terrain is the more proper term) are sheer 60-80 foot cliffs, with steep talus slopes dropping another 600-800 feet into the drainages below.

To get an idea of what you'll have to contend with - should you decide to risk life and limb - check out this short video. I should note that this hiker doesn't seem to be too bothered by the heights, judging by the speed with which he crosses the causeway:

Here's another video which provides much more perspective on what the entire hike is like:

For more information on hiking the Devils Causeway, please click here.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Partnership Announced to Protect Upper Colorado / Big Thompson from Increased Wildfire Risk

Last week U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a federal, local and private partnership that will reduce the risks of wildfire to America’s water supply in western states.

Through the Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (Interior) will work together with local water users to identify and mitigate risks of wildfire to parts of our nation’s water supply, irrigation and hydroelectric facilities. Flows of sediment, debris and ash into streams and rivers after wildfires can damage water quality and often require millions of dollars to repair damage to habitat, reservoirs and facilities.

USDA’s Forest Service and Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation will kick off the new partnership through a pilot in the Upper Colorado Headwaters and Big Thompson watershed in Northern Colorado. The partnership will include the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Colorado State Forest Service and builds off of past agreements between the Forest Service and municipal water suppliers, such as Denver Water’s Forest to Faucets partnership.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed on Friday at Horsetooth Reservoir outside of Ft. Collins, Colo., will facilitate activities such as wildfire risk reduction through forest thinning, prescribed fire and other forest health treatments; minimizing post-wildfire erosion and sedimentation; and restoring areas that are currently recovering from past wildfires through tree planting and other habitat improvements.

Horsetooth Reservoir is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson water system which provides water to 860,000 people within eight counties (Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer, Logan, Morgan, Sedgwick, Washington and Weld) and to more than 650,000 acres of agricultural land. It also generates enough electricity to power 58,300 homes annually. The area has experienced several fires in the last few years, including the destructive High Park Fire in June, 2012.

USDA and Interior are working with state and local stakeholders toward formalizing additional partnerships in the following areas:

• Salt River-CC Cragin project in Arizona
• Boise River Reservoir in Idaho
• Mid-Pacific Reclamation Region in California
• Yakima Basin in Washington State
• Horsethief Reservoir/Flathead River in Montana

Nationwide, the National Forest System provides drinking water to more than 60 million Americans. The share of water supply originating on national forest lands is particularly high across much of the West, including the upper Colorado River basin where nearly half of all water comes from National Forests. Healthy forests filter rain and snowmelt, regulate runoff and slow soil erosion – delivering clean water at a far lower cost than it would take to build infrastructure to replace these services.

The goal of the Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership is to restore forest and watershed health and to proactively plan for post-wildfire response actions intended to protect municipal and agricultural water supplies, infrastructures and facilities, water delivery capabilities and hydro-electric power generation. Forest and watershed restoration activities and proactive planning can help minimize sedimentation impacts on reservoirs and other water and hydro-electric infrastructure by reducing soil erosion and the impacts of wildfires, helping water managers avoid costs for dredging, water filtration, and the need to replace damaged infrastructure.


Monday, July 22, 2013

GAO Report Identifies Maintenance Gaps on National Forest Trails

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was recently asked by members of Congress to review the U.S. Forest Service's trail maintenance activities. The study, published in late June, concluded that while the Forest Service does a good job overall of offering trail-users recreational opportunities and maintaining the most popular trails, there remains a significant maintenance backlog, the result of a growing gap between trail maintenance needs and available resources.

The study points out that the Forest Service has more miles of trail than it has been able to maintain, resulting in a persistent maintenance backlog with a range of negative effects. In fiscal year 2012, the agency reported that it accomplished at least some maintenance on about 37% of its 158,000 trail miles, and that about one-quarter of its trail miles met the agency's standards. The Forest Service estimated the value of its trail maintenance backlog to be $314 million in fiscal year 2012, with an additional $210 million for annual maintenance, capital improvement, and operations. Trails not maintained to quality standards have a range of negative effects, such as inhibiting trail use and harming natural resources, and deferring maintenance can add to maintenance costs.

The Forest Service relies on a combination of internal and external resources to help maintain its trail system. Internal resources include about $80 million allocated annually for trail maintenance activities, plus funding for other agency programs that involve trails. External resources include volunteer labor, which the Forest Service valued at $26 million in fiscal year 2012, and funding from federal programs, states, and other sources.

Collectively, agency officials and stakeholders GAO spoke with identified a number of factors complicating the Forest Service's trail maintenance efforts, including:

1) Factors associated with the origin and location of trails

2) Some agency policies and procedures

3) Factors associated with the management of volunteers and other external resources

For example, many trails were created for purposes other than recreation, such as access for timber harvesting or firefighting, and some were built on steep slopes, leaving unsustainable, erosion-prone trails that require continual maintenance. In addition, certain agency policies and procedures complicate trail maintenance efforts, such as the agency's lack of standardized training in trails field skills, which limits agency expertise. Further, while volunteers are important to the agency's trail maintenance efforts, managing volunteers can decrease the time officials can spend performing on-the-ground maintenance.

Agency officials and stakeholders GAO interviewed collectively identified numerous options to improve Forest Service trail maintenance, including:

1) Assessing the sustainability of the trail system

2) Improving agency policies and procedures

3) Improving management of volunteers and other external resources.

In a 2010 document titled A Framework for Sustainable Recreation, the Forest Service noted the importance of analyzing recreation program needs and available resources and assessing potential ways to narrow the gap between them, which the agency has not yet done for its trails. Many officials and stakeholders suggested that the agency systematically assess its trail system to identify ways to reduce the gap and improve trail system sustainability. They also identified other options for improving management of volunteers. For example, while the agency's goal in the Forest Service Manual is to use volunteers, the agency has not established collaboration with and management of volunteers who help maintain trails as clear expectations for trails staff responsible for working with volunteers, and training in this area is limited. Some agency officials and stakeholders stated that training on how to collaborate with and manage volunteers would enhance the agency's ability to capitalize on this resource.

In commenting on a draft of the report, the U.S. Forest Service generally agreed with GAO's findings and recommendations. You can read the full report by clicking here.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Outdoor Survival - Controlling Panic

In this episode of the Colorado Parks & Wildlife outdoor survival video series, outdoor expert Peter Kummerfeldt discusses controlling panic, including the elements of S.T.O.P.:


Friday, July 19, 2013

Hiker Struck by Lightning on the Ute Trail

At 12:39 p.m. yesterday, a park visitor called 911 via cell phone to report that someone had been struck by lightning on the Ute Trail. The patient was subsequently located approximately 100 yards from the Ute Crossing Trailhead on Trail Ridge Road approximately one mile above Rainbow Curve. When rangers arrived to the area, the storm was still active with intense lightning activity. The patient was evacuated by park staff and Estes Park EMS down the trail to an awaiting ambulance. The patient was then transported by Estes Park Ambulance to the Estes Park Medical Center. The patient was a 65 year-old female. Her condition is not being released at this time.

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for the upper Big Thompson river drainage, including the area of the Fern Lake Fire. This warning remains in effect until further notice.

Lighting is a significant hazard in the Rockies, particularly during the summer months when thunderstorms are most prevalent and in areas located above tree line where shelter is limited. At least 17 people have been struck by lightning just this week: 4 in the Grand Canyon, 3 in Glacier National Park, and 9 on a farm in Wellington, Colorado. Know what to do should you be caught in the backcountry during a thunderstorm.

For updates on the weather, please click here.


Heavy Rain Closes Part of Fern Lake Trail - Covered by 4-foot Deep Debris

A Thursday afternoon thunderstorm resulted in localized damage to the lower Fern Lake Trail, located on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The storm, which developed along the Continental Divide during mid-day intensified as it moved east, resulting in heavy rain, hail, lightning, and localized flooding.

At approximately 1:08 pm, a hiker reported a large debris flow that had covered the Fern Lake Trail about one mile west of the trailhead near a feature called Arch Rocks. The debris flow originated on the slope to the north of the trail in an area burned over by the 2012 Fern Lake Fire. The debris, consisting primarily of mud, rocks and trees, covered over 150 yards of trail and in places is estimated to be four feet deep. Hikers and horseback riders in the area at the time were able to self-evacuate to the trailhead or were re-routed out of the area via the Cub Lake Trail. The two mile section of the Lower Fern Lake Trail remains closed from the trailhead to The Pool until a damage assessment is complete. Backcountry users can still access the Fern Lake Trail above The Pool via the Cub Lake Trail.

Efforts are underway to contact overnight campers in the area regarding the trail closure.

The National Weather Service is again forecasting showers and thunderstorms today throughout areas of northern Colorado including Rocky Mountain National Park. A Flash Flood Watch is in effect this afternoon and evening. Park users are reminded of the hazards that may accompany mountain storms. Heavy rain, hail, strong winds, flooding and severe lighting can be expected. Caution should be taken when traveling in burn areas that have been affected by recent wildfires, including the Fern Lake Fire. For updates on weather and Hazardous Weather Outlooks, please click here.

Rain on the trail does not mean you have to be miserable and cold. Hiking in the rain can be lot's of fun and does have some advantages. Check out these tips how to enjoy a hike on a rainy day.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Brainard Lake Recreation Area Celebration

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Boulder Ranger District staff will be celebrating several improvements made to the Brainard Lake Recreation area (BLRA), including renovations to the Brainard Gateway Trailhead, Day Use Area and Pawnee Campground. BLRA visitors in the area on Saturday, July 20th can visit USFS and Colorado Parks and Wildlife booths near the pavilion in the Day Use area to learn more about what makes BLRA one of the top visited USFS attractions along the Front Range.

Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. BLRA visitors will have an opportunity to learn about the abundant wildlife, plants and trees, local history, forestry practices and fire prevention efforts. Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers a hands-on experience using a collection of skins, tracks and skulls to learn about local wildlife while providing information on wildlife behavior and regulations. USFS visitor information and recreation specialists offer a biology lesson on the mountain pine beetle as well as a history lesson on how the local landscape has formed over time.

The Boulder Ranger District staff has made great strides in implementing the 2005 Brainard Lake Recreation Area management plan over the last two years. Last year, winter recreation improvements such as a warming hut, vault toilets, and a paved lot have proven useful in mitigating sanitation issues, parking safety concerns, and a new hot spot for visitors to come in from the cold.

This summer, finishing touches are being placed on a newly renovated Pawnee Campground and a Brainard Lake Day Use area with improved parking, a pavilion, picnic areas and vault toilets. These improvements and the winter recreation additions were designed to address safety concerns and mitigate foot-traffic, waste, and vehicle damages from over 125,000 visitors a year.

Program Schedule:

11:00 a.m. Lions, Moose and Bears, Oh my!

12:00 p.m. Mountain Pine Beetle: Friend or Foe?

1:00 p.m. History shaped the land


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bear Lake Road Reconstruction Project: Changes to Shuttle Schedule

Beginning on Saturday, July 20th, private vehicles will again be allowed seven days a week on Bear Lake Road. Although vehicles will now be allowed on weekdays as well as weekends, the road construction project is still taking place and park visitors will continue to experience up to two - 20 minute delays in both directions.

On July 20, the shuttle system's transportation hub will return to the Park & Ride rather than Moraine Park Visitor Center where it has been temporarily located during the construction project. The Moraine Park Shuttle Route will again include the following stops from the Park & Ride - Hollowell Park, Tuxedo Park, Moraine Park Visitor Center, Moraine Park Campground, C-Loop, Cub Lake Trailhead and Fern Lake Bus Stop. The Bear Lake Shuttle Route will remain the same and will include the following stops from the Park & Ride – Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, Glacier Gorge Trailhead and Bear Lake. The Hiker Shuttle Route will remain the same with stops at the Estes Park Fairgrounds Park-n-Ride, the Estes Park Visitor Center, the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and the Park & Ride.

Paving and other aspects of the project will likely continue through August.

Rocky is approaching its Centennial anniversary in 2015. Bear Lake Road was completed in 1928 and until 2003, no significant improvements were made. No major road work has taken place on the lower section for more than 80 years. When this project is complete, just prior to the park's hundredth anniversary, it will conclude over 47 miles of critical improvements on park roads since 2003.

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


Planning to visit Rocky Mountain National Park this summer? Please help support RockyMountainHikingTrails.com by supporting the sponsors on our Accommodations page.


Trail Ridge Road Closed For Through Travel Tuesday Night, July 23

Trail Ridge Road will be closed for through travel on Tuesday, July 23, from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. The road will be closed at the Bowen/Baker Trailhead which is located just south of Timber Creek Campground on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. A culvert will be replaced during the closure of the road.

Other work along Trail Ridge Road on the west side will take place at two additional locations but will not impact access on the road. The Farview Curve overlook and adjacent parking area will be temporarily closed beginning July 17. Rocks will be placed to prevent high water flows from undercutting the structure. This work should take approximately one week to complete.

Work will also occur near Milner Pass, the week of July 29, in a recurring mud slide area. During heavy snow melt, large volumes of debris flow over the road toward Poudre Lake, blocking the road. A deflection berm will be built to adjust the direction of the flow of debris. The small pullout area near this location will be closed for staging equipment and materials. This project will not impact the Milner Pass parking area.

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


Body Found At Bottom Of Park Cliff

NPS Digest is reporting that on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 10th, rangers searching for the driver of an unattended vehicle, located the body of a young man at the bottom of a cliff in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The search was begun after rangers noted that the vehicle had been parked on the North Rim overnight.

The body was recovered on July 11th using a Yellowstone National Park helicopter that was staged at Dinosaur National Monument for a possible fire response.

Rangers are working with the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office and Montrose County Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the facts surrounding the incident.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What it's like to travel on Old Fall River Road

Most people who venture to the alpine portions of Rocky Mountain National Park usually take Trail Ridge Road. However, the original road over the Continental Divide still exists. This one-way dirt road, known as Old Fall River Road, still takes park visitors to the Alpine Visitor Center, which sits at the lofty elevation of 11,796 feet above sea level.

Opened in 1920, Old Fall River Road was the first auto route in Rocky Mountain National Park that offered access to the park's high country, and was the only road into the park's interior until Trail Ridge Road opened in 1932. The historic 11-mile road, once an Indian path, leads travelers from Horseshoe Park to Fall River Pass. Along the way you'll have access to Chasm Falls, as well as the trails leading to Mt. Chapin, Mt. Chiquita and Ypsilon Mountain.

If you've never taken the road and wondered what it was like, or worried that it might be too "scary", this high-speed video shows what you'll experience along the entire route:


Monday, July 15, 2013

Rate of shattered baseball bats 50% less, thanks to Major League Baseball and US Forest Service

As the 2013 Major League Baseball (MLB) season slides into the All-Star break, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the results of innovative research by the U.S. Forest Service, and funded by MLB, that will result in significantly fewer shattered baseball bats.

Testing and analyzing thousands of shattered Major League bats, U.S. Forest Service researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) developed changes in manufacturing that decreased the rate of shattered maple bats by more than 50 percent since 2008. While the popularity of maple bats is greater today than ever before, the number of shattered bats continues to decline.

The joint Safety and Health Advisory Committee of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association began working to address the frequency of bats breaking into multiple pieces five years ago. FPL wood experts looked at every broken Major League bat from July to September during the 2008 MLB season.

The research team found that inconsistency of wood quality, primarily the manufacturing detail “slope of grain,” for all species of wood used in Major League bat manufacture was the main cause of broken bats. Also, low-density maple bats were found to not only crack, but shatter into multiple pieces more often than ash bats or higher-density maple bats. Called multiple-piece failure, shattered bats can pose a danger on the field and in the stands.

Slope of grain refers to the straightness of the wood grain along the length of a bat. Straighter grain lengthwise means less likelihood for breakage.

With the help of TECO, a third-party wood inspection service, the FPL team established manufacturing changes that have proven remarkably successful over time. Limits to bat geometry dimensions, wood density restrictions, and wood drying recommendations have all contributed to the dramatic decrease in multiple-piece failures, even as maple’s popularity is on the upswing.

The Forest Service research team has been watching video and recording details of every bat breakage since 2009. The team will continue monitoring daily video and studying broken bats collected during two two-week periods of the 2013 season, working to further reduce the use of low-density maple bats and the overall number of multiple-piece failures.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Thanks to Volunteers the Deadman Lookout Tower has Extended Hours

The Deadman Lookout Tower on the Canyon Lakes Ranger District is now open Thursday through Monday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through July and on weekends through September, completely staffed by volunteers.

Forty - a record number - volunteer hosts trained this year to staff the Lookout to provide visitors with valuable information, ranging from where to camp and fish to tips about how to become better public land stewards. The volunteers come from all over Larimer County, with some even coming from Boulder County. All the volunteers have a keen interest in helping to preserve and share the history of the Deadman Fire Lookout with others.

Those visiting the top of the Lookout, some 55 feet high, are rewarded with amazing views of northern Colorado from its 10,700-foot elevation. On a clear day, one can see landmarks one hundred miles from the tower, including vistas into southern Wyoming and the peaks of the Rawah Wilderness to the west.

Visitors can also see and use the original fire spotting equipment at the top. Volunteers are trained in the history of the fire tower, and some even have first-hand experience with fire.

The site also has a vault toilet and picnic tables, so you can make a great day-trip out of the experience. Just be sure to pack out your trash.

To confirm the Lookout will be staffed and open the day you plan to go, please call the visitor information center at 970-295-6700. As volunteers are getting fully trained, the Lookout is anticipated to be open additional days.

The Lookout is located up the Deadman Road, northwest of Red Feather Lakes. To get there from Fort Collins, take CO State Highway 287 north to Livermore. Turn west onto County Road 74E to Red Feather Lakes. Next, turn left on County Road 86 (Deadman Road). Travel on this gravel road for about 15 miles to the turnoff for Forest Service Road 170. It is about two miles from here to the Lookout.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hazardous Fuels Reduction Work Continues In Rocky Mountain National Park

The reduction of hazardous fuels is a significant preventative management tool used in preparation for managing wildfire near structures and communities. As seen with the Fern Lake Fire, previous reduction of hazardous fuels aided firefighters in stopping the fire within the park when it made its more than 3 mile run on the morning of December 1, 2012. Ultimately, these projects are done to protect life and property and enhance the safety of firefighters and their ability to manage fire within the park.

Hazardous fuels reduction projects have begun in three strategic locations within Rocky Mountain National Park – along Trail Ridge Road from Mills Drive to Deer Junction; on the west aspect of Emerald Mountain along trails and power lines; and along the Wild Basin Road and adjacent power line. Work will include removing dead trees, the lower limbs of remaining trees, ladder fuels, dead and down logs, and the removal of select trees adjacent to infrastructure. Resulting woody materials will be piled on site and burned in the following winters or may be used for firewood permits depending on location.

For more information on Firewise standards visit www.firewise.org.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Listening sessions to explore visitor activities at Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument will be hosting two listening sessions this week, designed to foster input from the public about the types of visitor uses, events or activities people want to have at the monument.

Monument Superintendent Lisa Eckert said the July 9-10 gatherings in Fruita and Grand Junction are intended to open a community dialogue about what commercial and visitor activities are most desired – and appropriate – in the park. The monument's spectacular, red-rock canyon walls and iconic Rim Rock Drive have been a popular destination for locals and tourists for more than a century.

The first session will be Tuesday, July 9th, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Fruita Community Center. The second is Wednesday, July 10th, noon to 3 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.

"We hope these workshops will begin an open conversation with folks in the valley about the monument," Eckert said. "We want to hear what uses the community thinks are appropriate for the monument, and help build a shared understanding about the monument's resources and how they are managed. We hope as many people as possible will join in this conversation."

The July 9-10 meetings will be facilitated by Mary Margaret Golten from CDR Associates, a respected Colorado mediation group.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Survival Kit

In this episode of the Colorado Parks & Wildlife outdoor survival video series, outdoor expert Peter Kummerfeldt discusses the survival kit, including the three main components of that kit: fire, shelter and signal.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Rocky Mountain National Park Announces Additional Fire Restrictions

Due to the continued extreme fire danger, extended weather forecast and current level of fire activity in the State of Colorado, park officials are reminding visitors of existing regulations pertaining to the use of fires that are always in place within Rocky Mountain National Park, along with a new restriction on smoking. In addition to the fire restrictions in place year-round, the smoking restriction becomes effective Friday June 28, 2013, and will remain in place until further notice.

Existing Regulations include:

* Fires, including grills and charcoal briquettes, are permitted only in designated areas and sites where a metal fire ring or grate is provided. These areas include developed campgrounds, some picnic areas, and some designated backcountry campsites pursuant to an overnight use permit.

* Campfires or grills are not permitted anywhere else in the park.

* Petroleum fueled stoves are permitted in designated backcountry campsites by permit only, and in developed campgrounds and picnic areas.

In addition to the above regulations, smoking is now prohibited except in an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed site such as a campground or picnic area, or while in an area at least three feet in diameter cleared of all flammable materials.

Visitors are reminded to fully extinguish all fires and lighted smoking materials in a safe manner. Fireworks are always prohibited within the park.

For further information on fire conditions in the park, please contact the park's Information Office at 970-586-1206.


Helicopter Available for Wildland Fire Response on Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests

Starting July 1, 2013, the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland is managing a Type 3 initial attack helicopter stationed in northern Fort Collins.

The helicopter is under contract for 60 days. It will be staffed seven days a week and have a minimum of four firefighters staffing it daily. The helicopter is well suited for local terrain and conditions. The helicopter will be dispatched automatically for fires on National Forest System or Bureau of Land Management lands. It will also be available to cooperating agencies through the standard ordering procedures.

The forest is fully staffed for wildland firefighting response, but this resource increases the speed and capacity local units have to respond. Along with this aircraft, the forest has two additional 20-person crews available for initial attack response temporarily assigned to the forest while fire potential is elevated.

On the Canyon Lakes Ranger District, there are currently three fully-staffed engines and, for a portion of the season, a 10-person AmeriCorps crew. The district is also home to the Roosevelt Hotshots, who are a national resource that travel frequently across the U.S. throughout the fire season.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Two Killed, One Seriously Injured In Plane Crash in Great Sand Dunes National Park

NPS Digest is reporting this morning that a single-engine plane crash in Great Sand Dunes National Park has killed a pilot and one of two passengers. The crash occurred near the junction of the Medano Pass primitive road and the Medano Lake Road on the morning of June 8th. The second passenger survived and was hospitalized.

A visitor was first on scene and called 911; a protection ranger arrived within 45 minutes. Huerfano County deputies and park staff assisted with evacuating the two passengers to regional trauma centers. The pilot’s body was taken into custody by the Saguache County coroner.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration investigated the accident the following day. On Tuesday, June 11th, the single-engine aircraft was removed from the park and the Medano Pass primitive road was reopened. The cause of the crash has yet to be determined by the NTSB and FAA.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Rocks on the West Side of Rocky Mountain National Park

Home to the western slope of Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand County, Colorado is a summer favorite for families preferring to experience this adventure wonderland in less-crowded destinations. To help visitors grasp the big picture, the park offers complimentary ranger-led programs throughout the season.

From daytime hiking past meadows and rivers along the Continental Divide Trail, to roasting marshmallows with a wrangler around a campfire, all ages can celebrate the great outdoors. Regardless of the day or evening you visit, there’s something on the calendar.

Here’s a look at the programs being offered on the park’s West Side throughout the summer:

Walks & Hikes

* Hike Through History – Discover hidden remnants of mining and dude ranch history along the Colorado River on a gentle three-mile hike.

* Inside The Fence – Enter an "exclosure" to learn about moose, elk and beaver, and explore habitat recovery firsthand.

* Beyond The Falls – Take an easy one-mile stroll to Adams Falls and soak in the spectacular view beyond.

* Mountain Wildflowers – A ranger leads the way to current blooms and explains what makes them so special. Ends 8/13.

* Rocky Mountain Heritage Walk – Learn Kawuneeche Valley history while exploring a historic guest ranch. Starts 6/22.

* Wilderness Connections – This moderate two-mile hike along a new section of the Continental Divide Trail features a meadow and river.

Children’s Programs (End Mid-August)

* Junior Ranger Program – Earn a Junior Ranger badge with a one-hour program and activities.

* Web Walkers – Explore a section of the Colorado River (6 -12 years).

* Come Bug A Ranger – Learn fun facts about insects. Includes puppets, stories and activities (4 - 10 years)

* Walk Backwards – Step back in time and experience life on a 1920s dude ranch with chores, games and period costumes (6 - 12 years).

Talks & Activities

* Holzwarth Historic Site – Tour a 1920s-era dude ranch for a taste of early homesteading and tourism.

* Skins And Things – Examine the skins, skulls, antlers, teeth and bones of park mammals.

* Ranger’s Flyfishing School – Learn about the park’s fish management program, stream ecology and flycasting. Bring your flyfishing gear or borrow the ranger’s. Runs 6/24 - 8/12

* Behind The Scenes – See short videos documenting how the park addresses challenges like elk management, pine beetles and bear safety. Starts 6/22

* Sisters Of Courage – Learn about the pioneer experience through the story of the remarkable Harbison sisters and their family. Includes a half-mile walk to homestead sites. Starts 7/1

* Exploring With A Camera – Focus on composition, light and basic tips to improve your photos during this photography walk. Ends 8/2

Evening Programs

* Timber Creek Evening Program – Presentations are available nightly at Timber Creek.

* Saturday Night In The Park – Enjoy an evening program in the Kawuneeche Visitor Center auditorium.

* Walk Into Twilight – Take a leisurely stroll as darkness, night sounds and wildlife fill the valley. Bring warm clothes, good hiking shoes and a flashlight. Ends 8/11

* Old Ranch Campfire – Roasting marshmallows (bring ’em), hearing tall tales (the old wrangler will tell ’em) and crooning campfire songs bring back the old days. Dress warmly. Ends 8/9

Night Sky Programs

* Celestial Wilderness – Use a telescope to explore night sky astronomy. Ends 8/10.

Unless otherwise noted, all programs are free and open to the public. All children must be accompanied by an adult. For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park, call 970-586-1206.

For details on dates, times and locations, please click here.

For overnight accommodations in the Grand Lake area, please click here.