Public asked to use caution and patience during spring recreation season

While the weather may be improving, spring in the Sierra Nevada is unpredictable at best, dangerous at worst, according to a statement from Plumas National Forest. And bouts of warm, sunny days can make it seem like winter is over even when there is still snow in the forecast.

The intersection of winter and summer recreation is causing challenges and some conflict for Plumas National Forest recreation staff and area residents and visitors eager to get outside.

“We are finding locks cut, gates broken and other damages to recreation facilities this spring,” said Forest Recreation and Lands Program Manager Erika Brenzovich. “Many sites are still inaccessible due to snow, have safety issues and post-winter clean-up that needs to occur, or are sites that will be managed by the new concessionaire later this spring.”

L:unker Point Boat Ramp.

Beckwourth District Ranger Mike Rahe decided to open Lunker Point Boat Launch at Frenchman Lake starting today following an inspection of the site yesterday. Frenchman Boat Launch will remain closed due to the adjacent campground facilities and the new concessionaire getting established.

Last year, the ranger district faced similar challenges with the gate to Lunker Point being open, the boat dock not being safe and overwhelming public pressure to reopen the lake with the first warm days.

“These are popular sites, but we have to manage for public and employee safety,” Rahe said. “Area residents and visitors need to understand that there are steps that have to be taken ahead of reopening these sites and to have some patience as the new concessionaire gets established in the next few weeks.”

Every year, forest recreation staff also find damage to boat docks that the public has tried to place themselves.

Snowy Spring Creek Campground.

“Please wait until we can inspect and place the boat docks safely,” Brenzovich said. “Repairing and replacing boat docks due to preventable damage impacts the already limited funds we have available for our facilities.”

Generally, conditions in the Forest are challenging, with rotten snow, wet and muddy roads and trails that make it easy to get stuck. Vehicles in these conditions can cause resource damage and require costly road and trail repairs.

“This time of year, the snow will refreeze overnight and be relatively solid in the morning, softening as the day warms up,” Brenzovich said. “For those engaging in recreation activities, whether it is snowmobiling, fishing, hiking or another use, what seemed safe in the morning becomes a high likelihood of getting stuck in the afternoon.”

Additionally, spring weather in the Sierra Nevada is highly variable, going from sunny and warm to snow, rain, cold or wind in a matter of minutes.

Spring Creek Campground road.

Later in the spring, the chance of thunderstorms and lightning also increases. Spring weather can result in fallen trees and landslides blocking roads with little warning, especially in burned areas.

Watch for flooding and use caution around fast-moving rivers and streams. Water temperatures are extremely cold in area lakes and waterways, increasing the risk of hypothermia.

It’s important to be prepared for changing conditions.  This includes appropriate clothing layers, socks and shoes, with extra warm, dry layers available.  Bringing enough food and water for potentially getting stuck for a day or more. Have a full tank of gas and tell someone where you are going, the route planned, and when you will be back.

Frenchman Lake.

“Our employees are just as excited as the public to get recreation sites open and start the 2024 season and, just yesterday, some were stuck in snow at Lake Davis for several hours while trying to access sites,” Brenzovich said.  “It’s easy to underestimate the risk when the weather is nice.”

While this week has been warm and sunny, temperatures are expected to be significantly cooler with a chance of rain and snow over the weekend.

“We want everyone recreating on the Plumas National Forest to have a positive and safe experience, which means being prepared, paying attention, having patience and respect for others when out in the forest,” Brenzovich said.

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