With public lands throughout California menaced by wildfires and dismal air quality, state and federal officials have closed dozens of state parks and plan to close all national forests, including many that recently emerged from coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
At 5 p.m. today, all 18 national forests will close access to more than 20 million acres across California because of “unprecedented and historic fire conditions.” Campgrounds, trails, picnic areas and roads will be shut to visitors until further notice, according to a U.S. Forest Service news release.
“These temporary closures are necessary to protect the public and our firefighters, and we will keep them in place until conditions improve and we are confident that national forest visitors can recreate safely,” regional forester Randy Moore said in the release.
The broader order comes after eight forests, including the nearby Angeles and San Bernardino forests, closed Monday. The Bobcat fire blazing through the Angeles forest near Azusa had grown to 11,456 acres with zero containment as of Wednesday afternoon.
National forests will be assessing risks at each site to decide when to lift the order. The Angeles Forest will be closed at least through Monday.
Travelers planning a getaway to any affected areas should check fire status as well as the status of any place they plan to visit — local, state and national parks and forests — before they leave home. The massive Creek fire in the Sierra National Forest, which has grown to more than 163,000 acres, has prompted warnings and evacuations across a wide part of central California, including popular spots such as Shaver Lake and Huntington Lake.
Forest closures shut down Mammoth Mountain’s bike park, gondola rides, guided climbing and other summer activities. However, the Sierra Star Golf Course and lodgings remain open at the Mammoth Lakes resort.
Hikers with permits heading to Mt. Whitney, the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail (where it runs on national forest land) also had to curtail their plans.
Meanwhile, Yosemite National Park, less than 50 miles north of the still-uncontrolled Creek fire, remained open to visitors with advance reservations on Wednesday afternoon. Rangers did close the park’s Mariposa Grove on Sunday night as a fire precaution.
The southern portion of the park is now under a fire advisory — a possible prelude to evacuation — and spokespersons are warning of poor air quality and visibility.
Still, said park spokesman Scott Gediman on Wednesday afternoon, “All park entrances and facilities remain open. Our best advice is for people to monitor air quality and decide how they want to proceed.”
Writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben, tweeting a sepia-toned view of Yosemite’s Half Dome on Tuesday, wrote, “California faces the greatest siege of fire in recorded history.”
State officials have closed 22 California state parks because of wildfire threats, including two in Southern California: Riverside County’s Wildwood Canyon State Park and San Bernardino County’s Chino Hills State Park. Also, Mount San Jacinto State Park is partially closed, with wilderness areas off-limits to day hiking and overnight hiking
Otherwise, the state park closure list is dominated by Monterey County, where eight parks are closed, and Northern California. As of midday Wednesday, the California State Parks list of fully closed units included these:
• In Monterey County, threatened by the Dolan fire: Andrew Molera State Park; Garrapata State Park (on the east side of Highway 1); Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park; John Little State Natural Reserve; Limekiln State Park; Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park; Point Lobos State Natural Reserve; and Point Sur State Historic Park.
• In San Mateo County, threatened by the CZU August Lightning Complex fire: Año Nuevo State Park (including Gazos Creek Beach); Butano State Park; and Portola Redwoods State Park.
• In Santa Cruz County, also threatened by the CZU August Lightning Complex fire: Big Basin Redwoods State Park (including Rancho del Oso and Little Basin); Castle Rock State Park; and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park (including Fall Creek).
• In Santa Clara County, threatened by the SCU Lightning Complex fire: Henry W. Coe State Park.
• In Napa County, threatened by the LNU Lightning Complex fire: Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.
• In Sonoma County, also threatened by the LNU Lightning Complex fire: Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve; and Austin Creek State Recreation Area.
• In Butte County, threatened by the Butte Lightning Complex fire: Lake Oroville State Recreation Area.
• In Contra Costa County, under a red flag warning for fire danger: Mount Diablo State Park.
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Another five state parks are partially closed. Besides Mount San Jacinto State Park, the list includes Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve in Mono County; South Yuba River State Park in Nevada County, the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park and Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz County.
In Marin County, Tomales Bay State Park had been closed under threat by the Woodward fire but reopened Wednesday for day use.
Also, Point Reyes National Seashore is closed because of the Woodward fire.