Lakes and rivers are full, so are the campgrounds |

Lakes and rivers are full, so are the campgrounds

Kelley Cox Post Independent

GARFIELD COUNTY, Colorado ” Between the state parks, national forest and Bureau of Land Management land encompassing most of Garfield County, you don’t have to look far for a weekend getaway.

Jenna Hemphill expects the Independence Day weekend to be as busy as ever at Rifle Gap State Park. Wednesday the camping spots at Rifle Gap Reservoir were filling up quickly and there weren’t many left.

“We are almost full already,” said Hemphill, tourism assistant for the Rifle Gap State Park. “By tomorrow we will be at capacity.”

Rifle Gap has 89 camping spots, many of which where already filled with tents, campers and motor homes as of Wednesday. This weekend there won’t be a single one open as the high water level will surely entice the water sports enthusiasts to the refreshing summer destination.

But if you’re looking forward to a weekend on the Gap, be prepared for the crowd. After all, it’s Independence Day.

“It’s going to be an extremely busy weekend,” Hemphill said. “People need to really be cautious and safe with all the families that are going to be on the water this weekend.”

Just because all the camping spots may be taken, doesn’t mean that people can’t come out and enjoy the reservoir. Day use permits will be available all weekend long.

For the most part, Hemphill explained that there are two important reasons for the local watering holes to be very popular this holiday weekend. Due to the high levels of runoff this year, reservoirs like Rifle Gap are in prime condition for recreation. Also, with gas prices way above $4 per gallon statewide, Hemphill expects there to be more locals enjoying their hometown recreation spot.

“Our lake is extremely full and the water level is very good for this time of year,” Hemphill said. “And with the conditions the way they are we are noticing a larger local population.”

Hemphill also mentioned that the number-one concern for state park management is the use of fireworks.

“Fireworks are not allowed in any state parks,” Hemphill said. “Even if they are legal, they are not allowed in the state parks.”

With the campgrounds filled up around the reservoir, there is still great camping locations throughout the White River National Forest. But just remember to leave the fireworks at home as well. Fireworks are also illegal on all forest lands in the state.

However, despite fire bans in many areas, WRNF has no restrictions in place yet due to the lush conditions in the high country.

And according to visitor information representative for the WRNF Barb Suits, the only campground in the Rifle Ranger district will probably fill up quickly as well.

“I’ve already been getting calls today for people wanting to go up to Meadow Lake,” Suits said. “It’s a beautiful spot.”

Meadow Lake and the Meadow Ridge campgrounds are the only WRNF campgrounds in the Rifle Ranger district. They will be open on July 4, and combined offer 30 camping sites. There are no reservations and are first come first serve.

Even though it’s close to home, it’s still far enough away.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

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