While restrictions and closures are in place for much of the Tonto National Forest over Memorial Day weekend, they do not apply to the Payson area and much of the Rim country.
But conditions throughout the area are very dry, officials say, and campers and others using the forest are advised to exercise extreme caution.
"While we're not in restrictions this weekend, please stress to people that they need to be careful," Gloria Alliger from the Payson Ranger District said.
A large area of the forest is closed south of Payson.
The closure encompasses northern portions of both the Cave Creek and Mesa ranger districts.
Restricted areas, where no open fires are permitted, cover much of the rest of the Tonto National Forest. The restriction boundaries extend to 15 miles north of Roosevelt Lake and include the Salome Wilderness Area, Picture Mountain and national forest lands around Gisela.
All lakes restricted
All six of the forest's lakes -- Roosevelt, Apache, Canyon, Saguaro, Horseshoe and Bartlett -- are in the restricted areas.
All five of the Payson Ranger District's campgrounds are outside of the fire restriction area. Houston Mesa, Ponderosa, Christopher Creek, Sharp Creek and Upper Tonto combine for approximately 250 campsites. With the restrictions in other parts of the forest expected to bring more campers to Payson, district officials recommend early arrival to secure a spot.
On the Pleasant Valley Ranger District near Young, competition for camping spots will be fierce. The Airplane Flat, Upper Canyon Creek and Valentine Canyon campgrounds in the northern section of the district are all closed to public access, leaving Colcord Ridge the only open campground in the area.
On the district's southern section, both Cascade and Creekside campgrounds are closed to overnight camping, leaving The Falls, on Workman Creek, and Rose Creek on Highway 288 as the only open campgrounds.
More restrictions coming soon
Rim country visitors can expect restrictions and possibly closures some time soon.
"As temperatures rise and vegetation dries out, we will continue to extend the restricted areas, so we hope people check with us often to see if their favorite spots are affected." Tom Klabunde, acting forest supervisor, said.
Meanwhile, the Coconino National Forest north of the Tonto reports no restrictions or closures, but campgrounds -- especially in Oak Creek Canyon -- were expected to start filling up Thursday evening.
Current restrictions and closures were triggered by concerns over wildfires spreading faster than firefighters can catch them.
"We understand that closing portions of the forest before Memorial Day will have severe impacts on the public, but the concern is how to ensure everyone's safety," Klabunde said.
Developed recreation areas such as campgrounds and picnic areas at Bartlett Lake, as well as Bartlett Lake Road, are exempt from the closure order, as are all campsites at Seven Springs and the Butcher Jones Picnic Area. Fire restrictions still apply for these sites. The order does close all public access to developed recreation sites at both Horseshoe Lake and the Needle Rock Recreation Area on the Verde River.
One careless act
Conditions are so severe that the tiniest spark can start a fire. Fires have resulted from recreation shooting, catalytic converters touching grass, safety chains on trailers dragging on the pavement and a variety of other unlikely sources.
Klabunde added that while the vast majority of forest visitors respect the fire restrictions, it only takes one careless act to spark a serious wildfire. Since the Tonto implemented fire restrictions in mid-April, more than 100 individuals have been ticketed for illegal fire activity.
For more specific information about the closure areas, including maps, visit the Tonto website at www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto.
For other local fire restrictions and Southwest public lands fire information, go to www.fs.fed.us/r3/fire or call toll-free 1-877-864-6985. For Coconino National Forest conditions and information, go to www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino.
Download latest forest restrictions map (283KB)