Nearly half of Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest closed to public
Almost half of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, including the Ashland watershed and lands west of Grants Pass, was closed to public access Friday morning to protect people from raging wildfires and reduce the chance of new human-caused fires from igniting.
The closed Wild Rivers and Siskiyou Mountains ranger districts are already under extreme fire danger and are within the footprints or path of the Slater fire raging through 141,000 acres of forest land out of California and into portions of Southern Oregon.
The closures force archery hunters out of the woods, campers escaping the Rogue Valley smoke as well as those taking refuge from the Almeda fire that destroyed large swaths of the Phoenix and Talent areas earlier this week.
“It’s all about fire danger and public-safety concerns,” forest spokeswoman Virginia Gibbons said.
Remaining open is Forest Service Road 23, known as Bear Camp Road, which transects the forest between the Rogue River outposts of Galice and Agness.
It’s a single-lane, paved road with turnouts. The road is relied on for raft and driftboat shuttles for those floating the Rogue’s Wild and Scenic Section, which remained open. It has also become a go-to route for Rogue Valley residents moving to and from the Curry County coast in the midst mass destruction in the Medford-Phoenix-Talent area from this week’s Almeda fire, which was just 20% contained Friday.
“It’s just a very important route through the forest right now,” Gibbons said.
The new closures cover the forest’s Wild Rivers and Siskiyou Mountains ranger districts encompassing the forest’s Applegate Valley areas as well as lands in Josephine and eastern Curry counties.
The Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District covers 260,000 acres from the Ashland watershed due west to Oregon Caves National Monument and south of the Starr Ranger District near Applegate Lake.
The Wild Rivers Ranger District covers about 509,000 acres and includes the Cave Junction area north to Galice northwest of Grants Pass. Also, Highway 199 remained closed from O’Brien near Cave Junction to Gasquet, California.
Together they represent 43% of the forest.
Evacuations remained in place in the Happy Camp, O’Brien and Takilma communities. Also closed was all access to Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.
Similar public-access closures Wednesday covered National Forest lands throughout California.
The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest covers 1.8 million acres from the Rogue Valley rim to the Oregon Coast. The forest’s Gold Beach and Powers ranger districts remained open Friday but were under extreme fire danger restrictions.
The Slater fire was listed Friday morning at almost 141,000 acres. It began Tuesday and was burning in the Klamath, Rogue River-Siskiyou and Six Rivers national forests. The cause remained under investigation.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.