Recently, Coconino National Forest officials announced that all forest lands in Oak Creek Canyon will close due to high flooding danger. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, with rain predicted later in the week, the start date of the closure has been moved up.
The order, initially slated to begin next week, will now take effect Thursday. According to forest managers, monsoon rains could trigger floods, mudslides and debris flows in the burn area of the recent Slide Fire. A primary concern to officials is the difficulty they could face during an emergency in communicating with the public and conducting evacuations.
All national forest lands in Oak Creek Canyon will be off limits to the public until the end of monsoon season. The closure area stretches from the switchbacks on State Route 89A south to Schnebly Hill Road in Sedona. All campgrounds and roadside pullouts in the canyon will be also be closed. Private, state, county and other non-national forest land will not be affected by the closure.
Last week, forest officials began seeding and mulch treatments of the most severely burned areas in and around Oak Creek Canyon. Their hope is to mitigate the heavy runoff that’s expected during monsoon rains. Also, in cases of emergency, a siren system will be used to alert anyone in the canyon.