Cottonwood Pass closed for winter season, U.S. Forest Service also implements winter closures | PostIndependent.com
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Cottonwood Pass closed for winter season, U.S. Forest Service also implements winter closures

Dogs prohibited, human access restricted for season in Avalanche Creek valley

Esta foto de archivo del 2016 muestra el punto de cierre de la carretera en el lado del condado de Garfield de Cottonwood Pass, justo arriba de Cattle Creek Road.
Post Independent file photo

Cottonwood Pass in Eagle County from Gypsum to the Roaring Fork Valley is now closed for the remainder of the winter season from mile marker 2.5 in Gypsum to mile marker 12.5.

The road will re-open in April 2023 or when conditions allow, Eagle County officials announced on Tuesday. For more information, contact the Eagle County Road & Bridge Department at 970-328-3540 or at road@eaglecounty.us.

In addition, the White River National Forest announced on Monday that the winter travel season is underway on forest roads.



During the winter season, all-wheeled vehicles, including bikes, are limited to plowed routes to protect snow conditions for winter recreation and to protect road quality, a WRNF news release states.

“These winter regulations are an important part of keeping the White River National Forest a premiere location for winter recreation by helping maintain conditions for activities like snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing,” Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said in the release. 



In some areas of the forest, snowmobile clubs groom roads for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing as a public service using volunteer time and funding from private and partner sources.

“Respecting signs and travel restrictions will help protect this investment in maintaining groomed surfaces and winter-recreation opportunities,” the release states.

Winter forest travel maps can be found at http://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver.

Local forest officials also announced Monday that annual winter closures for the Avalanche Creek area between Carbondale and Redstone are now in effect, including restricted human access north of the road (Forest Road 310). The entire area is also off limits for dogs in an effort to protect bighorn sheep herds that winter in the area.

Restrict access is in place until May 1, 2023, and the motor vehicle closure remains until May 21, the release states.

“The slopes north of Avalanche Creek provide excellent winter range for bighorn sheep, mule deer, and elk,” Aspen Sopris District Ranger Phil Nyland said. “The low elevation, relatively light snow-pack, terrain that facilitates quick escape and presence of winter forage make this area critical winter range.” 

Since the closures were first implemented in 1996, both the human population in the region and winter recreation in Avalanche Creek has grown, while big game populations have declined, he said.

“There are a number of factors contributing to the decline of the region’s big game herds, and disturbance in critical winter range is probably a significant reason,” he said.

As more people are using the area, compliance with the closures has decreased, particularly involving dogs, he said.

“We are seeing big game in this area less frequently than would be expected given its high-quality winter habitat,” Nyland said. “It’s clear to me that the presence of dogs in the closed area contributes to the lower numbers of big game, as does the amount of people.”


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