Rio Grande National Forest plans to fell dead trees by Spruce Lakes

By Mike Blakeman
Special to The SUN
Spruce Lakes will be closed to camping and visitation from Sept. 6 through Sept. 12 while the Rio Grande National Forest fells trees along the edges of the lakes with the use of explosives.
The two subalpine lakes are located about 4 miles northwest of Wolf Creek Pass in the Weminuche Wilderness.
Access along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) above Spruce Lakes will be limited during blasting operations, but there will be daily windows open for travel. The Lobo Overlook parking area and trailhead will be closed on Sept. 5 and 6. People wishing to hike or ride north on the CDNST on those two days will need to get on the trail where it leaves from Wolf Creek Pass.
“Beetle-killed trees have been falling into the lakes and clogging the spillways of the dams, creating a risk the dams will be breached,” said Divide District Ranger Martha Williamson. “Directionally knocking down the trees away from the lakes with explosives will greatly reduce the risk of the dams breaching.”
Motorized and mechanized equipment is not generally allowed in designated wilderness areas, whereas explosives are sometimes used for removing boulders and large numbers of fallen trees from trails. The Rio Grande National Forest successfully used explosives to directionally fell beetle-killed trees along a forest road a few years ago. The method was proven to be safe and effective.
Spruce Lakes were dammed to hold water for downstream agricultural use prior to the enactment of the 1964 Wilderness Act. Individuals still hold water rights in the lakes and Colorado Parks and Wildlife has stocked brook trout in the upper lake and Rio Grande cutthroat trout in the lower lake.
The project to fell the trees around the lakes is being done in partnership with water rights owners, Trout Unlimited, the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable and Colorado Water Conservation Board.
For more information, contact the Divide Ranger District office at (719) 657-3321.

This story was posted on August 29, 2018.