Area wildfires may impact hunters in early big-game season; here’s how to find out which areas are closed | VailDaily.com

Area wildfires may impact hunters in early big-game season; here’s how to find out which areas are closed

Alex Zorn
Rifle Citizen Telegram

Updated road closures map around the area of the Cabin Lake Fire. Call the Forest Service Blanco Ranger Station at 970-878-2049 for more information before you go.

RIFLE — With archery season for elk, deer and other big game starting Saturday, Aug. 25, in Colorado, local hunters may be heading out as early as this weekend. And while wildfires in the area are close to contained, some favorite hunting spots may be affected by closures.

While Colorado has experienced a very active fire season throughout the state this year, the fires that will have the biggest impact in the way of local road closures and limited hunting areas include the Lake Christine fire area on Basalt Mountain, Cache Creek outside of Parachute and Cabin Lake in the Flat Tops north of New Castle.

According to Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, closure of Basalt Mountain will remain in effect for most of the season, which he feels may have one of the biggest impacts on locals who archery hunt.

The closure, which was reduced on Monday, Aug. 6, includes the Forest Service boundary from the Cattle Creek Trailhead along the 509 Road east to Taylor Creek Pass. From the north, the lower Lone Pine Trail 1913 and 1913.3 are closed to the Forest Service boundary north of the Basalt State Wildlife Area, according to the Forest Service website.

Closures may be lifted soon

While the Cache Creek fire may be the most active local fire heading into hunting season, Fitzwilliams said the closures involve areas that are not heavily hunted, and the closures may be lifted shortly.

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The emergency closure issued for the Cache Creek fire includes the southern portion of the Rifle Ranger District between the Battlement and Beaver Creek trailheads.

Fitzwilliams added that rain this past week has helped tremendously in putting out the fires and keeping containment.

"It's a sigh of relief as hunting season comes," he said.

He said the far bigger concern for forest and wildlife officials was the Cabin Lake fire, which at one point forced the South Fork Campground and Trailhead to be closed.

As of Thursday, Aug. 23, the extensive closure has been reduced, with the Meadow Lake Campground on the Rifle Ranger District now open and accessible from the south.

Spring Cave Trail is also closed, Fitzwilliams said.

Fitzwilliams said forest officials want to ensure the closures do not hurt local businesses and hunting outfitters, several of whom reside in the South Fork of the White River National Forest.

"We realize a good portion of their revenue is the next two to three months," he said.

Fortunately, officials were able to shrink the Cabin Lake fire closures significantly in time for big-game season.

"All the closures we will monitor day-by-day and week-by-week," he said.

He added that the reduction in fire activity, such as helicopters flying overhead and other heavier equipment, will help bring the big-game animals back to the area.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife public information officer Mike Porras said the fires don't necessarily mean that wildlife, including deer and elk, will not return.

"Just because there is a fire today, does not mean that three to four weeks down the road you can't have a good hunt," he said.

He advised local hunters to check with the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service before they go.

He added that he's received word that the Lake Christine fire area has already started to become green again, and deer have already been seen in the area.

Call your ranger district

Check with the following ranger districts before hunting in areas impacted by wildfires:

• Lake Christine Fire Area Closure: Sopris Ranger Station, 970-963-2266.

• Cabin Lake Fire Area Closure: Blanco Ranger Station, 970-878-4039.

• Cache Creek Fire Area Closure: Rifle Ranger Station, 970-625-2371.

For continued updates, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver and look under “Alerts” or “News,” or follow the White River National Forest on Facebook.