Campgrounds across Colorado are fielding calls about the wildfires that have hit portions of the state, but Mary Arlington, executive director of the Colorado Campground & Lodging Owners Association (CCLOA) said there is one message being echoed across the state, “Yes! We are open.”
“These wildfires are horrific and have disrupted the lives of so many,” explained Arlington in a press release. “They’ve also put at risk the lives of all of the firefighters. Our hearts go out to the owners of Durango North/Riverside Kampgrounds of America (KOA) in Duranogo, which has been under mandatory evacuation. And now the San Juan National Forest is closed.
“While all of this is intense and it’s emotionally painful to us, most campgrounds are open,” she continued. “Campground owners spent all winter preparing to provide incredible camping experiences for their 2018 guests. Sadly, all of the fire coverage has caused many of those guests to cancel their plans, most without due cause.”
As Arlington attests that virtually all of the privately owned campgrounds in Colorado are open, a Colorado Parks & Wildlife press release states, “Mancos State Park has closed portions of the facility for hiking and camping that are adjacent to the San Juan National Forest.” That means that at this time, 40 of the 41 state parks are open, according to Arlington.
Both organizations emphasis that this is an ongoing emergency, and conditions are changing, so please monitor online sites for the latest on closures.
The fire season wasn’t completely a surprise, according to Arlington. When the winter season was providing so little snow, CCLOA published two blog posts for campers about fires. One was geared toward being prepared for wildfires and one focused on campfire awareness. CCLOA also hosted a panel presentation for its members where four campground owners who had endured natural disasters in the past shared their experiences so that others could learn from them.
“We take campground ownership very seriously,” Arlington noted. “We work to be a bridge that links campground issues to solution options, even before they have an issue. We also have a large following of campers via our website and social media, so we’re also a bridge that works to link campers to campsites, even when camping plans are disrupted by wildfires.”
CCLOA keeps a pulse on things, communicating with campground owners and campers on a daily basis, regardless of wildfires or blizzards, explained Arlington.
Some campgrounds in Colorado shared updates:
“The Durango 416 Fire is over 60 miles from us and not effecting us at all,” said Lainey and Billy Beyhan, owners of Dolores River Campground in Dolores. “The Burro Fire is 25 miles from us and we see a bit of haze in the early morning, but it clears by mid-morning. We have been getting so many cancellations due to the fire in Durango, which was totally unnecessary. Now with the Burro fire closer, I can understand people’s concerns, but it’s not impacting our property.”
“We have had so many people call and cancel because of the fire even though we keep telling them that it is not effecting us here at Vallecito Lake,” reported staff at Blue Spruce RV Park & Cabins in Bayfield. “The San Juan National forest is closed but the lake is open and our park is open, and we have very little smoke.”
Further north, Nichole Imm, owner of Lake John Resort in Walden said, “We are still open at Lake John Resort in the northern part of Colorado, even with the Wyoming Badger Creek Fire close to us, we are not in danger and the smoke is not affecting us as of right now. Fishing has been great and campers are enjoying themselves. There is a lot to see in the area. A drive up Poudre Canyon at anytime of the day usually provides great wildlife viewing, including moose, elk, antelope, deer, fox, etc. Big Creek is close to us and a beautiful place to see as well as the Delaney Butte Lakes.”
“While the San Juan National Forest is closed, the Uncompahgre National Forest and the Mesas are still open, just in extreme drought,” said Mark Hillier, owner of Uncompahgre River RV Resort in Olathe. “We aren’t experiencing any smoke pollution, and vacationing in our area is just as exciting as it’s ever been. Pack extra water for those above average tempratures and enjoy the Western Slope from The Uncompahgre River RV Park.”
Lloyd Delgado, owner of High Country RV Park in Naturita said, “Highway 141 is open there isn’t any fire in a hundred miles of us!”
Peri Ann Query of Estes Park KOA explained their park is open and has not been affected by the fires. She added, “Beauty and wildlife is abundant at 7,522 feet!”
Perhaps most heartbreaking, according to Arlington, is the state of businesses in Silverton, since the 614 Fire has closed one of the major arteries to this high-elevation community.
“Silverton is open for business and we have clear skies up here for now,” explained Denny and Sig Martin, owners of Silverton’s Silver Summit RV Park. “The San Juan National Forest is closed; however, the 4-wheel drive trails around Silverton are Bureau of Land Management owned and are open for your enjoyment. Come stay with us at Silver Summit RV Park and rent a Jeep from us or bring your own Jeep or off road vehicle and hit the trails. Browse the shops, eat at the restaurants, visit the museum and do a gold mine tour.”
Nearby Molas Lake Campground posted several pictures on Facebook captioned with, “It’s a beautiful morning here at Molas Lake! We are open for camping, fishing, paddle boarding, picnicking and more. Come on up!”
The Colorado Tourism Office issued the following on June 13:
“Colorado is dedicating unprecedented resources toward containing the three active fires in the state. A number of state agencies are working around the clock to contain the fires that have begun at the beginning of an especially hot and arid summer season in Colorado.
Colorado is the eighth largest state in the U.S. and most of its 104,100-square-miles remain unaffected by fire. The state’s two main airports, Denver International Airport and Colorado Springs Airport, have experienced no flight cancellations or visibility issues. Despite the wildfires, most of the southwest area of Colorado is still open for business.
It is important to stay current on fire conditions across the state, but visitors can still expect to enjoy a memorable Colorado vacation the majority of Colorado’s destinations.
Up-to-date information on location and status of the fires can be obtained via the Colorado Division of Emergency Management at www.coemergency.com; Twitter at @COEmergency and the Inciweb Incident Information Center www.inciweb.org/state/6.
“Every day of the year we want our campers and visitors to use utmost care with all fires, whether it’s a campfire, a cigarette, or even a hot tail pipe,” Arlington noted. “Always! Be safe and stay safe. Know what’s going on around you. And let the emergency workers do their jobs. Still, with 104,100-square-miles of “colorful” Colorado, come and enjoy all that’s not affected.”