Camping restrictions due to bear attacks now reduced

Payson, Ariz., Tonto National Forest.

Payson, Ariz. (Aug. 8, 2012) –Tonto National Forest officials announced today the modification of a temporary area closure order which was enacted last month due to three bear attacks on the Payson Ranger District during May and June.  The area closure went into effect June 24.  The modified closure order goes into effect immediately.

“Due to public health and safety concerns and the preponderance of bear sightings this year, along with three attacks on humans during the past two months, Ponderosa, Upper Tonto Creek, Lower Tonto Walk-In, Christopher Creek and Sharp Creek campgrounds were closed last month,” stated Rachel Hohl, district recreation specialist.  “Now, with the increased live fuel moistures, we should have improved vegetation production for the bears.”

“Extensive ‘Bear Aware’ educational efforts and warnings to the public to take extra precautions while camping this year will continue,” stated Hohl.   “More bear-proof trashcans have been ordered and will be installed when the district receives them,” she added.

Requirements for all open campgrounds on the Payson Ranger District:

  • All open campgrounds will have bear-proof dumpsters.  
  • The campground concessionaire will continueregularly-scheduled bear talks and offer them Fridays and Saturdays at all campgrounds.
  • All campers entering campgrounds will receive verbal and written bear communication information.
  • Campground message boards will continue to have signage about heightened bear awareness.
  • All campground hosts have bear air horns and are forbidden from leaving bear attractants outside their trailers.
  • Visitors are prohibited from leaving bear attractants in their camping areas (such as in their tents). 
  • Routine patrols by Forest Service personnel will continue, and citations will be issued for camps with uncontained garbage.

These are the campground requirements addressed by the current order:

  • Sharp Creekwill re-open.
  • Christopher Creek will re-open:  onlyhard-sided campers are authorized.  The Christopher Creek day-use area will have garbage removed every evening by the host and will receive a bear-proof trash can.  
  • Upper Tonto will re-open:  only hard-sided campers are authorized.  Note: sites are small in this campground so trailers have to be short or only over camper type mounts.
  • Tonto Walk-In (Lower Tonto):  Remains closed to overnight usage (a tent camping campground only).    Open 6 am – 6 pm.
  • Houston Mesa/Horse Camp:  Currently open
  • Dispersed camping areas:
  • 405/405A Dispersed Loop (including Bear Flats and Lower Tonto Creek):  Open for day-use only (no camping):  6 am – 6 pm.
  • Upper Tonto Creek Dispersed Area and Horton Trail Area (Hwy 260 to Hatchery):  Open for day-use only (no camping):  6 am – 6 pm.
  • Ponderosa Campgroundremains closed for the season.

Christopher Creek campground is 19 miles northeast of Payson on State Highway 260.  There are 43 camp units available with tables, grills, trash service, and campfire rings provided.

Sharp Creek campground is located 23 miles northeast of Payson on the south side of Highway 260, approximately 1½ mile east of Christopher Creek. There are 28 camp units available with picnic tables, grills, campfire rings and lantern holders provided.

For more information about wildlife on the Tonto National Forest, please contact the Arizona Game and Fish Mesa Office at 480-981-9400.

For further information, see the forest website, or call the Payson Ranger District administrative offices at: 928-474-7900.

Modified Closure Order and Map 12-12-031R