Base-jumping at Hanging Lake, other illegal forest activity concerns public lands officials

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Tire tracks in the mud are evidence of illegal access to the East Divide Creek area last weekend south of the New Castle-Silt area.
Courtesy White River National Forest

An incident involving base-jumping from the cliffs above Hanging Lake was just one of several illegal incidents on public lands that has White River National Forest officials extremely concerned.

Forest officials are investigating the incident involving four people base-jumping from the cliffs above Hanging Lake that sent one to the hospital on Sunday, according to a Wednesday morning press release issued by the White River National Forest.

Base-jumping involves using a parachute, sometimes in combination with a wing suit, and jumping from a cliff or other fixed platform.

The trail to Hanging Lake remains closed due to the coronavirus restrictions currently in place, and off-trail travel is never allowed in that area. The seasonal permit access to Hanging Lake has been postponed until June 1.

The names of the suspects have not been released, pending the investigation.

“We never want to see people breaking rules and engaging in high-risk behavior, but it’s especially worrisome given the current situation,” White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said in the release. “We don’t want to pull emergency officials away from focusing on the pandemic.”

Additionally, all ranger districts overseeing area forest lands reported finding multiple unattended campfires over the weekend.

“This isn’t rocket science. Follow the area fire restrictions. If you can have a campfire, enjoy it safely and make sure it is completely out before you leave,” Fitzwilliams said. “It’s only a matter of time before one of these abandoned campfires sparks a larger fire.”

According to the release, several chains on seasonal Forest Service gates were cut over the weekend to gain access to areas that remain closed due to muddy conditions and for wildlife protections.

In other areas, people are driving around gates or taking down barriers. 

The seasonal closures to vehicles are in place to prevent disturbance to wildlife and damage to the roads, Fitzwilliams explained. Other roads that are open but muddy suffered serious damage from motorized travel in several areas of the forest, he said.

“Please stay off muddy roads. Be patient, these spring conditions will improve,” Fitzwilliams said.

The usual 14-day camping limitation also remains in effect in areas open to camping. Campers must pack out their trash.

“Public lands are a tremendous resource available to us during these stressful times. But people need to be responsible and use common sense. We are all in this together,” Fitzwilliams said.

Anyone observing illegal behavior on U.S. Forest or BLM lands should contact the local ranger district, BLM office or sheriff’s office.