Melt opens up forests, campgrounds

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— Routt County's warm and dry spring weather is bringing an early start to the camping and hiking seasons.

Regional U.S. Forest Service officials say the rapidly melting snow has opened up some of the area's popular summer recreation spots.

"Seedhouse Road is now open as far as the Seedhouse Guard Station, and Buffalo Pass Road is open as far as Dry Lake, but it's still snow-covered beyond that," said Kent Foster, recreation manager for the Hahn's Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District. However, Foster advised that many Forest Service roads remain closed as the melt-off continues.

Hinman and Dry Lake campgrounds are open, but campers will need to take their own water because the water at the sites is yet to be tested for safety.

"It's about a two-week process to test several samples to ensure the water is safe for people to drink," Foster said.

Foster hopes most of the other campgrounds in the area will open within the next couple weeks. He warned that process might be delayed as crews remove beetle-killed trees from campgrounds.

In the Yampa Ranger District, the Bear River Corridor Road is open as far as Bear Lake. Dunckley Pass Road still is closed.

"Conditions are changing daily, so please give us a call at 638-4516 for the most current information," said Lee Duerkson of the Yampa Ranger District.

Looking farther west, Foster said the Freeman Campground, which is operated by Moffat County Parks and Recreation and the Forest Service, should be open in time for Memorial Day weekend.

As the Yampa Valley transitions from winter to summer sports, Forest Service officials say it's time for snowmobilers to put away their machines until the snow flies again later this year.

Foster said snowmobilers have to pass over areas without snow cover to get to areas where there is enough snow to ride. In doing so, they damager willows and other vegetation, he said.

"It really is time to stop snowmobiling on the Routt National Forest," Foster said.

For more information about the Hahn's Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District, stop by the Forest Service office at 925 Weiss Drive or call 879-1870.

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