Plumas National Forest preparing for 2023 summer recreation season despite challenges

Damage on the Doyle Grade.

Following a snowy winter and spring, Plumas National Forest recreation employees are working to address numerous challenges ahead of the 2023 spring and summer recreation season that may delay opening and access to many popular recreation sites.

Forest leadership is continuing discussions with recreation concessionaire Outdoors in Plumas regarding 2023 operations.

Reservations are being accepted on Recreation.gov for Outdoors in Plumas managed sites, including campgrounds at Lake Davis, Frenchman Lake, Lakes Basin and Antelope Lake.

However, campground and recreation facility openings across the Forest may be delayed due to access and snowpack, which will affect early season reservations.

From the Lakes Basin Recreation Area on the Beckwourth Ranger District to Little Grass Valley Reservoir on the Feather River Ranger District, large amounts of snow are restricting access to the sites and the ability to complete work to open for the season.

Projections are some sites will not be open until July.  Little Grass Valley Reservoir on the Feather River Ranger District, usually open by Father’s Day weekend, is projected to open in July.  There are reports of 8 to 10 feet of snow at Bucks Lake on the Mount Hough Ranger District, which will likely delay opening there as well. Lakes Basin recreation sites on the Beckwourth Ranger District are not expected to open until late June or early July due to snow.

“Even as the snow melts, we need to complete damage assessments, check for hazard trees, make repairs, turn on and test water systems and complete other maintenance tasks for public health and safety to be able to open for the season,” said Plumas National Forest Recreation and Lands Program Manager Colleen Heard.  “Our district recreation employees are monitoring conditions and looking for opportunities to get in and start the task of opening sites.”

Normally this work would be starting now ahead of sites beginning to open in early May.  In addition to snowpack receding, roads need to be cleared and reopened for recreation employees to begin work.

Lakes are full to capacity and even entering flood stages.  The California Department of Water Resources implemented an emergency plan for high flow release beginning last week at Frenchman Lake dam.  Antelope Lake still has approximately 2 feet of snow around it and the lake is full.  It is being reported that Lake Davis still has ice.

Despite those conditions, Beckwourth Ranger District recreation staff anticipate Frenchman Lake sites may be open by late May, a few weeks later than normal.

Plumas National Forest Road 29N43, commonly known as Antelope Lake Road on the Mount Hough Ranger District is closed for construction, affecting access to the recreation area.  While construction is continuing, there are numerous rockslides along the road and conditions are unsafe for public traffic.

Alternate roads into Antelope Lake have not been cleared.  Area residents and visitors choosing to travel on these roads should be prepared for heavy snow and possible downed trees.

Anyone traveling in the forest is encouraged to use caution, be prepared for changing conditions, not drive on dirt roads that are wet where you can see tire tread marks in the rearview mirror, and to avoid getting stuck.  Road conditions, especially with deteriorating snow can be unsafe.  Driving on wet roads can also result in road and resource damage.

Melting snowpack and runoff are also impacting culverts and roads.  Recently it was reported that a section of Doyle Grade Road is damaged due to runoff.  Drivers should watch for damaged roads and culverts, avoid continuing to travel in these areas, and report the damage to the local ranger district office or Forest Supervisor’s Office.

California State Highway 70 also remains closed between the Greenville Wye and Jarbo Gap due to multiple slides.  As of an April 10 update from CalTrans District 2, work is continuing and there is not a projected date for the highway to reopen.

As a result, recreation sites in the Feather River Canyon, including Gansner Bar, Queen Lily, Hallsted and North Fork campgrounds, are closed, with no projected date for them to open for the season.

For those hoping to make reservations on Recreation.gov for Mill Creek and Sundew campgrounds near Bucks Lake, the Forest is still transitioning management of the sites to PG&E.  While this transition in site management has been planned for several years, there are still steps needed for PG&E to accept reservations on Recreation.gov.

Until reservations can be made online, Mill Creek and Sundew campground will be first come – first serve, although opening will likely be delayed due to snow.

“After a long winter, so many people are looking forward to summer and enjoying the lakes, trails and recreation sites in the Plumas National Forest,” Heard said.  “The snow and recent weather has been great for our lake levels but is presenting challenges getting our recreation sites ready for summer.  Our employees are working hard to get things taken care of to reopen the recreation sites as soon as possible.”

For more information on the Plumas National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/plumas or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/USFSPlumas.