Forest Service to Reopen Ice Lake Area in San Juans, CO, Closed Since 2020 Wildfire

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Flash floods and debris flows pose a hazard to life safety following wildfires. This photo was taken in spring 2021, following the 2020 Ice Fire. Credit: USFS

The San Juan National Forest’s Columbine Ranger District will reopen the area closed by the 2020 Ice Fire, including Ice Lake Trail, South Mineral Campground, Clear Lake Road (Forest Road 815), and South Mineral Road (Forest Road 585), when the closure order expires the morning of Wednesday, September 15.

South Mineral Campground will open with limited services until closed by snow. No bathroom, trash pick-up, or water will be available at the campground. Please practice Leave No Trace principles and do not leave trash or waste behind.  Please no parking on the Clear Lake road and follow parking signs to keep roads clear for traffic.

“Although the trail, campground, and road have been cleared of fallen debris and many of the hazardous tree snags, please stay on the trail and be aware that potential hazards still exist.”

– Columbine District Ranger James Simino

This summer, Forest Service crews worked to clear 2.1 miles of trail and 3.11 miles of road and remove tree snags that had or could fall across the trail and road. San Juan County assisted in clearing Clear Lake Road.

The original closure order from October 2020 was extended on May 25, 2021, until September 15, 2021. The Columbine Ranger District coordinated closely with San Juan County to evaluate area hazards posed to life safety and the resulting need to extend the closure order time frame. As a result, Forest Order SJ-2021-02 extends the closure (map), which includes South Mineral Campground as well as the lower Ice Lakes Trail, the lower Clear Lake Road (NFSR 815), and the South Mineral Road (NFSR 585), from a new gate past Goldenhorn camping area to where it crosses Clear Creek past South Mineral Campground. The closure applies to ALL public entry, including hikers, mountain bikers, snowshoers, skiers, and motorized use.

Numerous fire-weakened trees fell, rocks, and boulders on the lower sections of Ice Lakes Trail and the Clear Lake Road. Exposed soils devoid of vegetation saturated by rain and snow were loose, unstable, and prone to erosion. Typical high-elevation afternoon thunderstorms and monsoon rains posed a further hazard in producing debris flows. Forest Service crews worked to mitigate hazards along the Ice Lake Trail and Clear Lake Road.

Map of the closure area. Full details on the closure can be found on the closure order:…/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd915775.pdf Credit: USFS

Public entry into this area was prohibited for the safety of forest visitors. Violations of these regulations were punishable as a Class B misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5000 for an individual. The public was prohibited from being in or upon:

  • any portion of the Ice Lakes Trail, from the trailhead to the timberline.
  • the Clear Lake Road between milepost 0.0 and milepost 3.77.
  • the South Mineral Road between milepost 2.47 and milepost 4.51.
  • National Forest System (NFS) land below the Ice Lakes and Clear Lake headwaters and all NFS lands bounded on the west by the eastern side of Lower Ice Lakes Basin and a ridge forming the southeast side of the basin to Clear Creek. On the north from the top switchback of the Clear Lake road south to 100 yards south and west of South Mineral Creek, including South Mineral road. On the east from the locked gate, past the Goldenhorn Campground to where South Mineral road crosses Clear Creek and runs north from the locked gate to an unnamed peak east of the top switchback of Clear Lake road.

For information on current fire restrictions, conditions, and recreation opportunities on the San Juan National Forest, call (970) 247-4874, visit the forest website, or follow them on social media (Twitter and Facebook).

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Fire-weakened trees down across a roadway following the 2020 Ice Fire on the Columbine Ranger District. Credit: USFS

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