Forest Service closes five of six Arizona national forests, some recreation areas to remain open


April Welch (Flickr)

The Tonto National Forest is among the areas closed to visitors because of extreme fire danger.

Ole Olafson, Reporter

Updated July 8, 2021

Update:  Butcher Jones Recreation site, which offers the public access to Lake Saguaro off of Bush Highway in the form of a beach area, picnic facilities and hiking trails is temporarily closed.  A source told that the closure is not because of the risk of fire danger, but ironically, the result of the road that leads to the recreation site being washed out by flooding which occurred on July 3.  The Coconino and Kaibab national forests reopened July 6.


Last week, the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service in Arizona closed five of its six national forests to visitors to reduce the likelihood of human caused fires during the current extreme fire danger that persists across the state.

The Coronado National Forest in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico is the only national forest in Arizona to remain open.

Ariana Taylor reported for that campers and recreationalists were asked to leave the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests before Wednesday’s closure took effect.  Similarly, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest shut down on Thursday and the Prescott and Tonto National Forests followed suit on Friday.

The forest closures are scheduled to stay in place until at least July 31, or until the fire danger desists to an extent that it is safe to let visitors back in.

Even though the full forest closure prohibits anyone other than property owners and authorized utility workers and firefighters from entering the national forest, there are certain areas in the Prescott and Tonto National Forests that will remain open.

In the Prescott N.F., Lynx Lake, Granite Basin Lake and Goldwater Lake will reportedly remain open.

The Tonto N.F. is the state’s largest national forest and is the most easily accessed by residents of the Valley.  It encompasses all of the Salt and Verde River lakes and surrounding areas, as well as the Four Peaks, Mazatzal and Superstition wilderness areas along with the upper and lower portions of the Salt River.

According to the stage III forest closure order for Tonto N.F., numerous areas within the national forest will initially remain open, but continue to be subject to stage II fire restrictions.

Some of the developed recreation sites that will remain open include Apache, Roosevelt, Bartlett, Canyon and Saguaro Lake Marinas, as well as Butcher Jones recreation site.

Tortilla Flats Restaurant (thank God) along with the entire Lower Salt River and their associated public recreation areas, as well as Salt River Recreation and Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch will remain open.

The Lower Salt River encompasses the entire Salt River flowage from below Stewart Mountain Dam — which forms Lake Saguaro, to Granite Reef Dam — where the river is divided into a system of canals east of Mesa, Ariz.