Fires and Crowds at Red River Gorge, KY


By Bill Strachan, Executive Director Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition

Fall is typically fire season in Kentucky, and a severe drought this summer has created particularly dangerous fire conditions. After a lightning-induced fire started above the popular Funk Rock City crag in the Clifty Wilderness, the USFS temporarily closed the area to climbing on September 7, 2007. This fire grew from about 5 acres to over 18 acres, and burning snags falling from the top of the cliff burned 1 to 2 acres at the cliff base. The fire eventually burned out, and the Forest Service reopened the area to climbing on October 1, 2007.

Then on October 4, 2007, the Forest Service issued a 120-day ban on all open fires outside of developed recreation areas in the Daniel Boone National Forest. The governor of Kentucky has also issued a statewide ban on all open burning. Due to the fire danger, the private Muir Valley climbing area has instituted a temporary ban on smoking and all sources of open flames.

The Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition (RRGCC)-owned Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP) does not allow open fires at any time on the property. Forest fires burned portions of both Muir Valley and the PMRP last fall. Please respect the fire bans and refrain from smoking no matter where you are climbing in the Red River Gorge.

Over Labor Day and, more recently, over the Columbus Day / Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, Muir Valley experienced large crowds that resulted in a serious parking problem. As a result, Muir Valley has issued the following parking guidelines: 1. Please park responsibly. Dont leave 3/4 of a space between your car and the adjacent one. 2. Dont park off of the graveled parking lot anywhere adjacent to it. 3. Dont block other cars or the entrance to the maintenance building. 4. Weekends this fall you may park down the hill past the barn in the lower meadow, unless there has been a recent rain.

In other news, Muir Valley is holding their annual trail day on November 10, 2007. More information about the Muir Valley, their trail day, and how you can contribute to maintaining this area can be found on these websites: www.muirvalley.com and www.friendsofmuirvalley.org.