Durango 416 Fire – What You Should Know

5 June 2018
Comments: 2

Category: News
5 June 2018, Comments: 2

Durango 416 Fire – What You Should Know

This is what downtown looks like today. In the distance, some smoke can be seen from the fire.

Update!!!!! 6/20/18

Due to our fortunate weather and rains over the weekend, the Stage 3 fire restrictions will be lifted on Thursday, June 21st at 3:00 pm in the San Juan National Forest and BLM.  You can read more here.  La Plata/Durango properties are still under stage 3 restrictions buy may open shortly after.

So over the weekend, Durango once again made national news for a natural disaster.  It seems that we can’t catch a break with these things.  It would be nice if we made headlines for something awesome like having the first child born with wings or the worlds largest burrito ever consumed…but here we are.  It’s the nature of life in a mountain town, where no news is good news.  Since national news of the 416 Fire broke, we have been inundated with questions from all over ranging how the fishing has been impacted to sheer surprise that our shop has not been evacuated…

…yeah seriously.

So if you don’t have time to read our lengthy Q and A below, here is the super short version:

DURANGO IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS!  We have not been evacuated nor will the town be, the smoke and air quality have varied depending on winds but has not been bad, the fishing is incredible everywhere right now, our guide trips are still going and no plans have changed, and we are very thankful for our firefighters working hard on this incident.

(This page will be updated when we can)

Will the fire affect my guide trip?  No, not at all.  If you have a trip booked with us this summer, as stated above, we have plenty of options for you to catch fish, whether you are looking for a float or wade, high country creeks or bigger water.  More than likely, the fire will not have changed the water you are fishing regardless.  If you are looking to book a guide trip, we have more than enough options.

Should I change my Durango Vacation plans?  No!  Durango is still going strong, fishing is incredible, AND there is a still whole heap of cool things to do here.  Besides fly fishing, we have hiking, biking, rafting, climbing, and backpacking!  Durango, Pagosa Springs, Creede, Mesa Verde, Telluride, Silverton, Ouray are all safe and good to go!

What does our water look like?  This has been a question on many people’s mind since before the 416 fire.  Our snowpack was low this year but currently, it isn’t too bad.  We have been fortunate and have had a handful of rainstorms pass through that have helped our river levels.  While peak runoff was early, we are looking at a summer with the potential of an early monsoon season.  As of now, our water is pretty awesome and trout are biting.

How far is the fire from Durango? About 10 miles north, just north of Hermosa township.

What has been evacuated? Parts of southern Hermosa township area are on evac and pre-evac notice.  Homes near Bakers Bridge north to Tamarron and the Glacier Club have been evacuated.  North Electra Lake to Purgatory is on pre-evac notice and the East side of 550 around Bakers Biridge.

No part of Durango town proper has been evacuated and yes we are still open (we have been asked this a few times).  We do not anticipate any part of the town of Durango to be evacuated either.

Is highway 550 closed?  As of right now, U.S. Highway 550 is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday for through traffic only. Residents who have been evacuated from their homes won’t be allowed to return home. Law enforcement will escort drivers through the closed area from mile markers 35.5 to 43.5.  Depending on winds, this may change and they make the call to halt traffic if smoke/visibility is bad.

What areas are closed to fishing/outdoor recreation?  The latest release is that the entirety of the Hermosa Creek drainage is closed to outdoor recreation.  You can find the full release here: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/photos/COSJF/2018-06-01-2038-416/related_files/pict20180504-144026-0.pdf

How is the Smoke/Air Quality in town? Honestly, it has not been that bad, and today there is not even a slight smell of smoke in the air.  However, this can all change depending on wind direction.  Typically the smoke in town is most noticable in the mornings, but by 10-11 am the town is clear.

Is the fire affecting the fishing?

The short answer to this is “no, not at all”.

The longer answer is, well it is affecting the fishing…for the better.  Fires like this tend to take fishing pressure off fish.  Our local waters are seeing less angling pressure due to the presence of a forest fire in the area…which, of course, alters the perception of the area and can drive people to change their fishing plans.  The choice to fish elsewhere is not really the best decision though, because the fishing is actually pretty damned incredible right now.  The Hermosa Creek watershed makes up only a tiny fraction of the waters we fish and guide on.

99% of our fisheries are still fishing lights out…

What fisheries are still an option?  As stated earlier, the only fishery that is closed is the Hermosa Creek drainage.  Cascade and Lime creeks remain open to fishing (Lime Creek Road is still open) along with the waters around Silverton such as the upper Animas, Highland Mary’s Lakes and into the Weiminuche Wilderness.  These waters will see a lot less pressure due to highway 550 being only one lane with intermittent closures.  Some have opted to head to Silverton through by way of Telluride and Ouray.  While this is a longer drive around than 550…you will have a lot of water to yourself if you head this direction.

And this is only the waters we fish that are north of us.

The Animas Valley, Animas through town, and Animas Ute water are all open…and fishing incredible.  We are seeing hatches of drakes, PMDs, Baetis, and small stones on the Animas and the fish are eating hard.  The San Juan River Quality Waters is fishing lights out and we have had fish come up to large foamy dries lately!  Many guides are having great days with clients pulling out 20 inch plus fish thanks to the recent bump in flows.

Of course, all our other local waters are fishing great.  Many of our guides are in the height of the Rio Grande dry fly season floats and fish are looking up.  Other waters that are fishing great are: the Upper San Juan, Los Pinos and upper Los Pinos, Piedra, Upper and Lower Dolores, Florida, Vallecito Reservoir, Lemon Reservoir, Lake Nighthorse, Navajo Reservoir, South Fork of the Rio Grande, Williams Creek, La Plata River, Mancos River, and Vallecito Creek.  Plus an almost infinite amount of creeks and lakes in the high country of the Weminuche Wilderness.

What are the updates on the Fire?  That is an ever-evolving answer and we are really not the experts.  However, for updates and information on the 416 Fire, you can check out these links for more info:

At the end of the day, the hard truth of any forest fire is this: fires are a part of the health and lifecycle of a forest.  The burning of an old forest gives new growth and life.  While we don’t love the perception a fire paints for a mountain town, as of right now things are pretty good.  No one has been seriously injured or killed in this blaze, no structures have been destroyed, and people close to the fire have been evacuated and are out of harm’s way.

We are truly thankful for the tireless efforts of the brave and hardworking firefighters who are stationed here in Durango, working to protect us, our friends, our family, our forests, and our town.  We are also thankful for any forest service personnel, sheriff’s deputy, volunteer, or anyone who is working to contain this situation or support those who are on the front line.

And for the love of God, please don’t be a complete idiot and try and fly a drone around a forest fire to get that “sick aerial footy”.  Drones put aircraft operators at risk, which puts our firefighters on the ground at risk to be caught in a bad spot without air support.  It is not harmless and puts more people in needless danger than you realize.  If you must, take some snaps from the ground, from a very safe distance away, and let the professionals do their job.

Andy McKinley
Andy manages Duranglers Flies and Supplies online store and web content. When he is not plugging away in the basement of Duranglers, he can be found in the shop talking weird flies, throwing spey casts for few fish, eating pizza, drinking coffee, painting, and raising a family in Southwest Colorado.

His fly fishing writings have been published on blogs such as the Daily Drake and Simms Wading Room.

2 responses on “Durango 416 Fire – What You Should Know

  1. Ted Warren says:

    Good report. Will be around July 1-14 and will stop by the shop.

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