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Chiricahua National Monument Superintendent H. Lane Baker announced today that portions of the Bonita Canyon Campground will be closed beginning Monday, July 8. Bonita Creek flows through the campground and is fed by several washes. In anticipation of heavy monsoon rains, around 15 of the 25 sites in the campground will be closed for the next few months. "Our highest priority is always the safety of our visitors and staff," said Baker on Friday. "Closing a few sites in the campground allows us to mitigate some of the risk associated with camping in locations that can be prone to flash flooding".
Areas that have experienced large fires, such as the Horseshoe II fire that burned over 200,000 acres in and around Chiricahua National Monument (NM) in 2011, have an increased risk of flash flooding. Floods are significantly larger following fires and floodwater can carry debris that could be hazardous to campers and their property. During monsoon season campers should never camp in washes or low lying areas.
Local residents and visitors are reminded that conditions can change rapidly during the monsoon. Hikers are encouraged to check weather forecasts before heading out and pay attention to their surroundings. Soils in a burned landscape can create slippery conditions, and mud and rockslides can be triggered by the heavy rainfall events that are typical during monsoon.
In addition to the campground closures, Superintendent Baker also reminds people that Chiricahua NM is one of many public lands that are currently under fire restrictions. "Although the rains should be coming any day now, present conditions are extremely dry. Carelessness or unlawful use of fire in the outdoors could lead to trouble very quickly," said Baker. "It is imperative that folks pay attention to fire restrictions. As an added reminder, don't forget that fireworks, including 'sparklers', are always prohibited on National Park Service lands."
Monument managers hope to open the entire campground in time for Labor Day weekend, but the final decision will be based on safety considerations at that time. Visitors planning a trip to the monument can contact the Chiricahua NM visitor center staff at 520-824-3560, ext. 0 for more information about fire restrictions, as well as safety tips for hiking and camping during monsoon. Information is also available at www.nps.gov/chir.
Chiricahua National Monument is located four miles east of the junction of Arizona Highways 186 and 181. No food or gasoline is available at the monument.