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Access Restored to Multiple NW California Whitewater Rivers

Posted: 02/08/2021
By: Scott Harding

By all counts, 2020 was an epic wildfire season, particularly on the West Coast. Throughout Oregon and California, National Forests and other public lands were closed as fires burned through river canyons and communities. In the time since the fires have been contained, most public lands have reopened fully or reduced closed areas significantly, although large closures are still in place in many areas that burned at high intensity.


But, until last week, three rivers in Northern California that were not affected by 2020 wildfires at all remained closed to the public due to U.S. Forest Service fire closures on the Klamath National Forest and the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. With the fire closures now reduced on the Klamath NF and lifted entirely on the Shasta-Trinity, these spectacular rivers are once again open for use and enjoyment.


The re-opened rivers are:

1) Trinity River (Pigeon Point and Burnt Ranch Gorge runs; 34 miles)
2) New River (all runs, including EF New; 25 miles)
3) Clear Creek (Klamath tributary; upper and lower runs; 10 miles)


The closures that affected these rivers stood out from all others because these areas had not burned at all nor had their access roads, yet they remained closed to all public use for several months. For example, the popular Pigeon Point run on the Trinity River was more than 18 miles from the nearest flame during the Red Salmon Complex wildfire last summer, but it remained closed to river users until January 27, 2021 when the Shasta-Trinity National Forest finally lifted their closure order for the Trinity and the New. This fire closure shut down public access to 230,000 acres of National Forest yet only 23% of that area—most of it wilderness—burned.


Klamath National Forest reduced their Slater Fire closure on February 3, re-opening all of Clear Creek. The community of Happy Camp was utterly devastated by this fire and Indian Creek, which flows through the town, remains closed at this time. The Klamath River access point at the mouth of Indian Creek is open.


It is troubling that these fire closures remained in full effect for months after the fires were contained and that they closed large areas not even affected by the fires. American Whitewater advocated that these rivers be re-opened and we appreciate that the Forest Service listened and will now allow the public to visit, paddle, and enjoy these remarkable areas. We'll continue working to ensure that closures don’t unnecessarily shut down access to public lands and rivers. We are actively working on fire closure issues that affect other rivers not yet re-opened after the 2020 wildfires.


Maps of Previously Closed Rivers

Red Salmon Complex Closure Whitewater Streams Map
Shasta-Trinity NF lifted the Red Salmon Complex closure order on January 27, 2021 and the affected sections of the Trinity and New rivers are now fully re-opened.