Last year, there were approximately 3,600 trees cleared from roughly 55 miles on these high use public trails.
Please be aware of your surroundings and use caution when entering the Black Elk Wilderness. There are a high number of dead trees, or snags, in the wilderness area due to mortality from mountain pine beetle infestations. These trees can easily fall in high winds and can fall without warning.
Dave Pickford, Recreation Specialist, Hell Canyon Ranger District said that until the trail sections are cleared, they may be nearly impassable for hikers and may be completely impassable to horse traffic.
Using crosscut saws, (an un-motorized light one or two person saw) trail crews will work to clear all of the trails located within the wilderness area. “We will do our best to keep these trails open; however, a passing thunderstorm with high winds can change the status of trails at any time,” said Pickford. Pickford said the crew relies heavily on the public telling them when trees are down. “Please call any of the local Forest Service offices if you come across a downed or high risk tree.”
“Please use extra caution if you are dispersed camping,” said Pickford. “Look up, look down, look all around and beware of falling dead trees. Do not pitch your tent under a dead tree and stay away from trees during lightning, thunderstorms and high winds.”
The primary trails to be cleared include:
· Harney Trail 9 South from Sylvan Lake Trailhead located in Custer State Park.
· Norbeck Trail 3 from Iron Creek Horse Camp and/or Little Devils Tower Trailhead.
· Iron Creek Trail 15.
· Willow Creek Trail 8.
· Centennial 89 Trail.
· Lower portions of Grizzly Trail 7 to the Junction of Horsethief Trail 14.
· Horsethief Trail 14.
· Harney 9 North Trail from the Junction of Willow Creek Loop Trail 8 to Harney Peak Lookout Tower
Caution: Very high tree mortality exists near the following trails. Trail clearing in these areas will be dependent on weather and other safety factors.
· Upper Grizzly 7 Trail beyond the junction of Horsethief Trail 14 up to the junction of Norbeck Trail 3.
· Lost Cabin Trail 2.
· Willow-Rushmore Trail 5.
“Please remember that these trails are located in a primitive and very challenging area where weather changes very quickly,” said Pickford. “Please take your personal safety seriously and realize that rescue is especially difficult and time consuming in this area.”
Always carry extra clothing, food, water, first aid supplies, a fully charged communication device and a plan of where you are going and when you are expected to return with someone at home before you go. Make safety a priority.
This summer, wilderness trail crews will also be removing invasive plants, providing outdoor education, repairing trail tread, maintaining the historic Harney Lookout Tower and hardening trail water crossings.
For more information on the Black Hills National Forest, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/blackhills/home.