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Fire Spares World-Class Climbing Area

Jun 18, 2013

Climber Dana Larkin on the route “Fossil Family,” Rifle Mountain Park.
Credit Courtesy: Rebecca Schild

A world-class climbing area near Rifle may reopen today. The Rifle Mountain Park has been closed for five days because of the nearby Ward Gulch fire. Now, the town’s Parks and Recreation Department says people may be able to return... but it all depends on the weather. 

Rifle Mountain Park has some of the best rock climbing in the country, and climbers from all over the world test their skills there. Everyone was evacuated last Friday, when the Ward Gulch fire got perilously close.  Tom Whitmore is Parks Director for the Town of Rifle.

“This particular day we had a lot of people that were climbing, and our staff was really impressed with our climbing community and our climbers how much they expedited getting out of there and notifying other people that were in the area with them when we were doing the evacuation.”

They were so fast, in fact, Whitmore doesn’t have an estimate for how many people high tailed it out of Rifle Mountain Park. He said normally it’s busy during the day and the park’s campsite can hold as many as two hundred people. In the end, the Ward Gulch fire didn’t actually burn the park, but it did get within two miles. Director Tom Whitmore says the town plans to reopen Rifle Mountain Park today [Wednesday]. That depends on the weather... If there’s dry lightning or the Ward Gulch fire grows bigger, the Park may stay closed.