PAGOSA SPRINGS - The Williams Creek Campground on the San Juan National Forest Pagosa Ranger District will be closed this season due to hazards associated an extensive outbreak of tree disease in the heavily forested campground. The popular campground, located 23 miles north of Pagosa Springs, has 67 campsites, which are often full on summer weekends and holidays.
Over the past decade, the U.S. Forest Service has been monitoring and treating an aggressive outbreak of a tree disease in the campground called Armillaria, which spreads between trees via root systems, resulting in decay of the roots. Despite extensive efforts to combat the spread, including removal of more than 400 trees, recent monitoring has revealed that an estimated 90 percent of the remaining spruce trees in the campground may also be infected. The only effective treatment for Armillaria is removal of affected trees and those immediately adjacent, because the disease spreads through intertwined root systems. Foresters estimate that up to 1,500 trees may require removal to make the campground safe for occupancy.
“Over the winter, at least 17 green trees came down, blocking roads, crashing onto tables and through campsites,” said Paul Blackman, Pagosa District Recreation Coordinator. “Trees that otherwise appear healthy fall suddenly without warning once enough of their root system has been compromised. This, of course, would put campers at great risk of injury and/or property loss.”
Crews will begin felling and removing trees in the campground this spring and will continue throughout summer and fall. Public entry into the area will be prohibited through a Supervisor’s Order. Managers are hopeful that by next summer, a portion of the campground can be reopened; however, sections with denser stands of spruce may require several years to effectively treat and mitigate for safety concerns.
Other nearby USFS campgrounds, which will remain open, include the Teal, Cimarrona and Palisades Horse campgrounds north of Williams Creek Reservoir, and Bridge Campground to the south. Dispersed camping is prohibited within ¼ mile of the Williams Creek Road, except in two designated sites.
For more information, contact the Pagosa Ranger District at 970 264-2268.