Payson Ranger District Camps Open

Bear-aware and safe campfire practices urged as camping season launched

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After a string of bear attacks last year, all six campgrounds in the Payson Ranger District are now equipped with bear-proof Dumpsters and food storage boxes in about half of the 63 campsites at Ponderosa Campground.

On Monday, the Forest Service announced all campgrounds in the district are open.

Officials said it is crucial campers practice bear-aware behavior, storing all food and scented items in the provided food storage boxes or in their vehicles and throwing garbage in the bear-proof Dumpsters daily. In addition, tents should be placed away from cooking areas, said Rachel Hohl, recreation staff.

Last year, bears attacked three people near Tonto Creek, including once in the Tonto Village subdivision and twice at the Ponderosa Campground.

Following the unprecedented string of attacks, federal trackers killed three black bears and the Forest Service shut down three campgrounds for much of the season.

“We work closely with Arizona Game and Fish wildlife specialists on issues such as the bear incidents last year, which resulted in area campground closures,” said Joel Mona, acting district ranger.

“We emphasize bear-awareness behaviors to our visitors every year.”  

The Ponderosa Campground is located

12 miles northeast of Payson on Hwy 260. Turn south into the site. $14 per night, $7 for second vehicle, $75 for group site

Besides exercising bear-aware behavior, the Forest Service is asking campers to practice safe fire habits, ensuring campfires are “dead out.”

“As in previous dry years, we will probably be going into campfire restrictions in the next two months, so visitors need to get updated forest information by calling forest offices or visiting their Web sites before planning their camping trips,” Mona said. “All six Arizona national forests maintain updated campfire restriction on their Web sites.” 

For more information regarding forest recreation, visit www.fs.usda.gov/tonto.

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