Posts Tagged ‘Wyoming’

Snowy Range Scenic Byway

Leaving Lake Marie and Medicine Bow Peak behind
on an early June Byway drive.

The Centennial, Wyo., visitor center is a one-stop shop for anything forest-related a visitor traveling the Snowy Range Scenic Byway might need — permits, maps, books, information, even souvenirs.

The center, sitting on the eastern boundary of the Medicine Bow National Forest near Centennial, used to be a decades-old trailer. After two summers of construction, the trailer is gone and a brand new building is set to be open by this winter.

The 1,100-square-foot building will feature an open central room with tall south-facing windows. Forest service personnel will be stationed behind a counter that lines the western wall.

“It’ll be big enough to accommodate a good amount of guests. We’re hoping to use it as an education area,” Aaron Voos, a public affairs official for the forest service, said.

Outside, the parking area was repaved, and a walking path will lead down the hill behind the building.

The visitor center will be open seasonally to coincide with the opening of the highway — generally from May through October. It will also be open in the winter so forest visitors may purchase Christmas tree permits on their way up to the mountains to cut one down.

The new visitor center might be the most noticeable change on the forest, but it’s just one piece in a series of projects along the Snowy Range Scenic Byway.

The other big project was the paving of the first half-mile of Sand Lake Road, which was completed in early August. The road, Forest Road 101, offers access to the northern part of the forest as well as the North Fork Campground. A number of dispersed camping spots near the highway are heavily used by campers with trailers.

A smooth layer of asphalt now covers what used to be a rutted dirt road that climbed north from the highway a few miles west of Centennial. Voos said the popular road was impossible to keep smooth.

“We would grade it, and a week later it would be right back to the rutted condition it was in before we graded it,” he said.

Other scenic byway improvement projects, some of which are still ongoing, include paving the trail between Lake Marie and Mirror Lake, fixing damage on Barber Lake Road caused by flooding, and adding new signage along the highway.

The $2.8 million project was funded with help from a grant from the Wyoming Department of Transportation, which used money from the Federal Highways National Scenic Byway Program.

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Tips for Visitors:

  • The minimum driving time along the Snowy Range Scenic Byway is approximately one hour. Allow additional time to enjoy the many scenic features the Byway offers.
  • The Snowy Range Scenic Byway is open from late May until closed by snow again in mid-November.
  • This route traverses one of Wyoming’s famous mountain ranges. Road grades do not exceed 6.5%.
  • Wyoming Highway 130 is a modern, two-lane road and has a number of turnouts, picnic areas, and scenic views.
  • Vehicles tuned for sea level may not perform as well at higher mountain elevations. Be prepared to pull over to allow faster traffic to pass if necessary.

You may see a “Forest Closed” sign when you go to visit your favorite camping spot this summer, and you can put all the blame on the pine beetles.

The beetles have destroyed 3.5 million acres of lodge pole pines in Colorado and Wyoming, up from 2.6 million last year. The U.S. Forest Service said up to 100,000 dead trees could fall each day for the next 10 years.

“We’re extremely concerned, not only for forest visitors, but also our employees. We’ve had a few near misses,” said Forest Service Spokesperson Janelle Smith.

The Forest Service said the danger from the trees will force it to close several roads, trails, and campgrounds this summer. Most will be temporary until the problem trees can be removed, but some could last all season.

Mountain communities that thrive on tourism said they’re not looking forward to the closures, but don’t think the dead trees will kill their bottom line.

“When one’s closed, there’ll be some others that have reopened this summer, so we don’t feel there’ll be a huge amount of impact,” said Catherine Ross, Executive Director of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce.

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