Despite monsoon-type rains, access no problem on Western Slope

It’s not often backcountry travelers in western Colorado will run into this type of situation, but it never hurts to be prepared. One way to get ready is to call your local land-management agency prior to heading out.

Call before leaving home.

That’s the advice hunters and late-season anglers are hearing, particularly if their destination includes any place near or east of the Continental Divide.

Last week at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting in Montrose, Kathi Green, deputy regional manager for Parks and Wildlife’s Northeast Region, told the commission, “Right now we don’t really have our arms around what’s going on up there. We’ve got water everywhere.”

That could be a major concern for anyone headed to the northeast quadrant, including blackpowder hunters who will be out in the field though the Sunday. Archery season ends Sept. 29.

Monday, Parks and Wildlife issued a list of state wildlife area and state park closures around the Front Range and U.S. Forest Service road closures on the Arapaho and Roosevelt national forests and Pawnee National Grassland.

While there haven’t been any reports of hunting units on the Western Slope being isolated or inaccessible, it never hurts to call your local land management agency before heading out.

“Every season there is the possibility that access may be limited to a specific area, but even then it’s usually a very small part of a game management unit,” said Mike Porras, spokesman for Parks and Wildlife’s Northwest Region.

“As we’ve seen with the heavy rains elsewhere in the state, hunters are advised to check with the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service to make sure there aren’t any road closures or limited access,” Porras said.

Grand Junction BLM spokesman Chris Joyner said there weren’t any closures in the area although there is some work being done on roads heading into the Bookcliffs.

“We are removing some rocks off a few roads in the Bookcliffs, but access hasn’t been affected,” Joyner said. “We always encourage people to be careful and not drive through areas where there has been road damage.”

There are no reports of access difficulties in the Southwest Region, said Parks and Wildlife spokesman Joe Lewandowski in Durango.

“We’ve had some steady rains but nothing to cause trouble,” Lewandowski said. “Still, it’s best to call before heading out.”

That idea was reiterated by Lee Ann Loupe, spokeswoman for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest.

She said travelers will encounter some muddy roads, but there were no complete closures on the forest.

“With all this moisture, we’ve had some localized flooding and some earth movements, but as far as I know, nothing is physically closed,” she said. “Those unsurfaced roads in the Nucla and Naturita area can be horrible when it rains, so it’s best to call your local ranger district for the latest information.”

She said one exception is the Alpine Tunnel road northeast of Gunnison, where a dislodged boulder blocks the narrow road.

This certainly isn’t the first time hunters or backcountry travelers have faced a few access challenges, Porras said, but it’s all part of the game.

“Last year it was the fires that caught a lot of attention, and this year it’s the rain, but when you got out there, there was a lot of good access and great hunting,” Porras said.

Parks and Wildlife allows hunters who have concerns about an area for which they already have a license to get a refund on the license or their preference points reinstated (not both) if they turn in the license prior to the beginning of the season.


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