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Willcox, AZ – Southeast Arizona Group Acting Superintendent Julena Campbell announced today that portions of the historic Bonita Canyon Campground in Chiricahua National Monument will be closed beginning Monday, July 6. The campground is located near the mouth of Bonita Canyon and several streams flow through the vicinity, making for a scenic location, but also presenting an access problem if floodwaters are running in the washes. In anticipation of heavy monsoon rains, around 10 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 Campbell on Monday. “Closing a handful of 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 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. After a few growing seasons post-fire, much of the smaller vegetation in the park is filling back in and helping to hold more soil in place, but there are still a number of standing dead trees with rotting roots that were damaged during the fires. Strong, gusty winds typical during monsoon storms will continue to bring down these trees. Hikers, campers, and drivers along the scenic road should watch for falling trees.
In previous years, the campground has operated on a first-come, first-served basis only. However, since the fall of 2014, reservations may be made at www.recreation.gov or over the phone at 1-877-444-6777. The camping fee is $12 per site, per night, or $6 per site, per night for America the Beautiful - The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior and Access pass holders.
All other park facilities are open for the summer including the scenic eight mile Bonita Canyon Drive, the visitor center, which is open 8:30 am to 4:30 pm daily, Faraway Ranch Historic District, picnic areas, and 17 miles of hiking trails. Park 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. The park is open 24 hours a day, although the road can be temporarily closed due to hazardous conditions such as monsoon flooding and related debris flow. For more information, go to www.nps.gov/chir or call the visitor center staff at 520-824-3560, ext. 0.