Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tonto (mostly) open for business, but no fires

PHOENIX (June 27, 2011) – With forest closures and fire restrictions limiting some recreation opportunities on the Tonto National Forest, forest officials are advising people to look ahead when making weekend plans.

“We want people to know that the Tonto is open for business, and so are the towns and businesses that cater to our visitors,” said Deputy Fire Staff Helen Graham. “From playing in the water at one of the lakes or rivers or camping in a cool pine forest, there are plenty of opportunities for folks to share the holiday weekend with us.”

The first rule for anyone who plans to visit public lands this weekend to know is that fireworks are strictly prohibited on national forests.

“Fireworks are banned year round on National Forest System lands, not just during fire season,” said Graham, “but the Independence Day holiday always provides that additional temptation to break out the firecrackers and bottle rockets. Put simply, we will not tolerate the use of fireworks on the Tonto National Forest, and people who break the law will receive hefty fines, and maybe some jail time.”

“Recreational shooting is also banned throughout the forest under current restrictions, and is of particular concern,” emphasized Graham. “We have had six fire starts since April related to recreational shooting activities.”

Secondly, campfires limited to charcoal cooking fires only are allowed in fire grills and grates provided by the Forest Service in developed recreation sites on the Cave Creek, Mesa, and Tonto Basin disticts (list below). No wood or charcoal campfires are allowed anywhere else on the forest.

Third, there are two closure areas on the forest. One area closure is on the northern boundaries of the forest and includes the towns of Pine and Strawberry. The other closure area is bounded by Sunflower, Punkin Center, and Roosevelt and Saguaro lakes. Closure and restriction orders, with maps, are available on the forest website.

Penalties for violating either the restriction or closure order include fines of up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail.

Outside these two closures, there are still ample opportunities to find a campsite in a cool pine forest. Near Payson, both the Ponderosa and Houston Mesa campgrounds offer developed camping opportunities, while more primitive campsites are found along Houston Mesa Road. Numerous campgrounds can be found along Arizona Highway 288, leading from Roosevelt Lake to Young, Ariz. North of Young, both the Alderwood and Haigler Canyon campgrounds are open. Campfire restrictions remain in effect at all of these locations, so gas or propane will have to be used for cooking and heating.

Those wanting to camp or picnic at one of the Tonto’s six lakes or two rivers have even more opportunities. On Roosevelt and Apache lakes there are 1,150 campsites available. The Lower Salt River Recreation Area can host thousands of picnickers, not to mention the tubing, rafting and boating available on Saguaro and Canyon lakes. Bartlett Lake and the Needle Rock Recreation Area near Cave Creek provide more recreation opportunities.

While uncontrolled fire is always a great concern in the forest, the increased numbers of visitors also impacts the resources due to the litter and trash left behind. Visitors are urged to follow the Leave No Trace principles to help decrease potential long-term damage from camping without a conscience.

If you pack it in - pack it out. Pack out all trash, leftover food and other litter.
It is prohibited to take glass containers around any water areas on the forest (for example, the Salt River, Roosevelt Lake, the reservoirs, etc.).

Take only photos, leave only memories.

Visit to learn more about the Leave no Trace principles.

And finally, visitors are encouraged to “know before you go.”

Campgrounds across the forest will begin fill up early on Friday and many sites are first-come, first-serve. The earlier a camper arrives, the better opportunity for finding that perfect campsite.

Visitors to the Tonto National Forest need to make sure they have the proper permits for their vehicles, watercraft and activities, as some vendors may have limited hours during the weekend.

Tonto National Forest administrative offices will be closed Monday, July 4 to observe the Independence Day holiday. For more information, visit or call 602-225-5200.

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