National Forests shut down off-highway trails and recreation areas

Photo Source: Flickr / Forest Service Northern Region / CC BY 2.0 / MGN
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — As the COVID-19 outbreak continues and more and more facilities normally used by visitors shut down across Virginia and country, a lot of closures within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests have been announced.

The national forest lands already shut down all trailhead facilities and access points to the Appalachian Trail in line with CDC and Virginia Department of Health guidance for social distancing.

Prior to that, recreation areas and campgrounds, as well as bathrooms, OHV trails, trail shelters and many day-use areas were closed.

Now, on Wednesday, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests gave breakdowns of the campgrounds and restroom facilities temporarily closing in the North River Ranger District, as well as all the off-highway trails and developed recreation areas in the Lee Ranger District closing.

The closures are meant to protect the safety of both the public and USDA Forest Service staff, according to the announcement.

National Forest trails and forest roads will remain open for public use, but the Forest Service advises that people follow all social distancing guidelines while hiking or partaking in any activities in the National Forests.

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says the forest lands remain open for recreational fishing.

They say law enforcement and search and rescue operations may be limited by COVID-19 as well, so high risk activities like rock climbing should be avoided.

“We realize our communities and our visitors value the recreation opportunities the forest has to offer,” said Joby Timm, George Washington and Jefferson National Forest Supervisor. “A lot of consideration went into this decision. The health and safety of our employees and the public remain our top priority.”

The following facilities in the North River Ranger District are closing:

• Hone Quarry Campground and Day Use Area
• North River Campground
• Brandywine Campground and Day Use Area
• Todd Lake Campground and Day Use Area
• Shaws Fork Equestrian Campground
• Camp Run Campground
• Briery Branch Day Use Area
• Elkhorn Lake Day Use Area
• Staunton Dam Picnic Area
• Blue Hole Day Use Area
• Braley Pond Day Use Area
• Mountain House Day Use Area
• Hite Hollow Shooting Range
• West Side Shooting Range
• August Springs Wetlands Interpretive Trail Restroom
• Confederate Breastworks Restroom

The following facilities in the Lee Ranger District are closing:

• Peters Mill Run/Taskers Gap OHV Trail Complex
• Wolf Gap Campground and Picnic Area
• Little Fort Campground
• Elizabeth Furnace Family Campground, Day Use Area and Group Camp
• Camp Roosevelt Campground and Picnic Area
• Trout Pond Recreation Campground, Day Use Area, and Rockcliff Lake
• Hawk Campground and Group Camp
• Lions Tale National Recreation Trail Restroom

Campgrounds and picnic shelters are temporarily unavailable for reservation on Recreation.gov. Anyone who already had a reservation will be notified and refunds will be processed.

However, those refunds, like many refunds right now, may be delayed due to the volume of cancellations.

The national forests say their number one priority is the health and safety of the public, which is why they ordered the closures.

For the latest national forest status updates, you can check FS.USDA.gov/recmain/gwj/recreation.