Some National Forest roads closed longer for wildlife

House Creek, Lone Dome routes now scheduled to reopen May 1

House Creek road remains closed on April 1 as the Forest Service decided to keep the area closed an extra month. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

House Creek road remains closed on April 1 as the Forest Service decided to keep the area closed an extra month.

Wildlife in the local San Juan National Forest will enjoy an extra month of peace and quiet beginning this year.

Several roads that pass through deer and elk habitat will be closed to motorized travel through May 1 instead of April 1.

The change is a result of the Boggy-Glade Travel Management Plan finalized last year.

“This is the first year the extended closure is being implemented, so we have had some calls about it,” said Derek Padilla, Dolores district ranger for the San Juan National Forest.

Roads with the extended wildlife closures include Forest Road 528 (House Creek), Forest Road 529 and spurs, Forest Road 504 (Lone Dome) and Forest Road 240 (Ryman Creek Road).

The paved House Creek Road and nearby Forest Road 529 are the most frequently used routes affected by the extended closure. They are located eight to nine miles north of Dolores off of the Norwood Road. The roads offer access to McPhee Reservoir and forest service lands.

The longer closure means car camping and launching a boat from House Creek ramp will be delayed a month.

All the roads will remain open to nonmotorized uses during the extended closure, including for hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and when there is snowpack, snowshoeing and skiing.

The campground at the House Creek Recreation Area does not open to the public until mid May, at which time the road will be open for motorized use.

Boaters and anglers missing out on early season excursions from the House Creek boat ramp can access the reservoir from the recently opened McPhee Boat Ramp, four miles west of Dolores off of Highway 184.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommended the extended closure because it is a sensitive time for deer and elk, Padilla said.

“They have exhausted their winter reserves, and the females are dropping calves,” he said. “The extended closure provides opportunity for them to recuperate from the winter and not be stressed by folks driving through the area.”

Anglers on the Lower Dolores River will notice the extended wildlife closure on Lone Dome Road (FR 504) from the Ferris Campground to McPhee Dam. The closure begins four miles upstream from the Bradfield Bridge.

Also a six-mile portion of the Ryman Creek Road (FS 240) from north of a private property boundary to just before Disappointment Creek will also be gated and closed until May 1 to accommodate wildlife.

Recreation planner Chris Bouton explained the closure gates will be positioned north of private land to allow continued access to a subdivision in that area.

The extension benefits wildlife, giving them time to recover from the winter, and for hunters as well, helping to boost deer and elk populations during the Fall season.

“Deer and elk continue to lose winter range habitat, and the lower elevation areas targeted for the extended closures are a critical factor for them to thrive the rest of the year,” said Joe Lewandowski, public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Deer and elk can lose 20 to 40 percent of their body weight over the winter, and the end of winter is when a lot of mortality occurs, Lewandowski said. During normal snowpack, winter range offers warmer temperatures for deer and elk, and more forage is exposed.

The roads wildlife closures are typically snowed in this time of year and are impassable. But a mild winter at lower elevations has dried them out, attracting more users earlier than normal.

“We see it as warm now, but wildlife still endure freezing overnight temperatures. Closing off winter range gives them a break and a better chance to survive,” Lewandowski said.