Over Half of Mortimer Campground Closed

posted in: Outdoors | 6

According to a recent Forest Service press release (and to confirm a lot of rumoring going on before that), part of most of  Mortimer Campground has been closed due to the potential for flash flooding in the area. 12 of the 23 campsites, in the lower area of the campground nearer Wilson Creek, are now closed. It is true that a massive flood wiped out the former town of Mortimer here in 1940, and you can see remains of the buildings standing in flat areas near the stream, so there is the potential for something like a 100 year flood to cause problems again. However, it’s disappointing that the only campground in the area now has less than half the sites it once did – and it didn’t have that many to begin with!

We hope the Forest Service can add some new sites in the area at some point to make up for the loss. It’s a nice campground, with trails that start right there and a waterfall just upstream on Thorps Creek. In the mean time, nearby private campgrounds, or public ones like Linville Falls, Julian Price, or Crabtree Meadows on the Blue Ridge Parkway, could fulfill some of the need – albeit at a much greater driving distance to the Wilson Creek area. So get there early to get one of the remaining spots – they don’t take reservations!

6 Responses

  1. hiker33

    These sites have been there for how long and the possibility of flooding is recognized as a problem now because…?

  2. jordan_wncoutdoors

    I know…it seems strange, but the Forest Service is very risk-averse these days. They re-assessed them and determined that the risk of flood – however small – was too much to ignore.
    Makes we worry a bit about riverside campground

  3. jordan_wncoutdoors

    I know – it does seem strange to me too, but the Forest Service is very risk-averse these days, and after a re-assessment, they determined that the chances of another flood – however small – was too great to ignore.
    Makes we worried a bit about similar riverside campgrounds such as Linville Falls, and Davidson River and Mills River to the south!

  4. billy

    I believe it is phase one of a shutdown. In a year or so, you’ll be hearing of the economic burden of operating a campground with only 10 sites. The Pisgah is also getting hit with a lot of potential forest road closures pretty soon. As if there weren’t enough gates. So sad…

  5. Camping Grandpa

    I agree with all the posts so far.  This is a bureacratic knee jerk reaction to what happened in Arkansas in 2010, where several people died and the families have sued the USFS. The situation in Arkansas was totally different to what is in Mortimer.  In Arkansas there was no ranger on hand, there were no sirens, and it was a very remote area with no phone service.  in deference, Mortimer shares the same location with the USFS maintenance facility and receives weather service notifications from several sources.  There is an onsite siren to alert the community to possible dangers of flooding, as well as other adverse weather conditions.  Also, Mortimer has campground hosts who are local, very dedicated, and with a land line as well as radio communications with local rescue squads; and care for the campers as family.  I have camped there for years in all kinds of weather, including the front that caused the flooding in Arkansas, and there was never an issue of flooding.  The fact that the Forest Service brings up the flooding of the town of Mortimer in 1940 as part of their decision is just pathetic.  The town of Mortimer is miles down Wilson Creek from the campground and the cause of that flood was an extremely rare weather front (hurricane) combined with poor clear cutting forestry practices by the local lumber company at that time.  Has nothing to do with the present day campground.  The other weak argument is that there were several campers stranded and rescued by a recent flood way down Wilson Creek in a REAL flood plain in a private campground that, again, has nothing to do with the Mortimer Campground.   There was a plan to build dikes and replace a bridge in the Mortimer campground, but there was not enough usage to justify the expense.  This campground has been on the list of facilities to be closed, but the recent rise in usage and revenue increase has been a thorn in their side.  By shutting down half the campground they are cutting out at least half the revenue, thus justifying closing it down in the future.  USFS cites that approx. 800 people use the campground each year but they fail to tell how long they stay.  At $10 a pop if they just stay for one night that is $8000.  Most people stay 2 nights or more; I stay for a week at a time at least 2-3 times a year, so their number of 800 is a bit deceitful as far as reflecting usage and revenue is concerned.  I cannot say enough good about the hosts, as they love the campground as much as they do the guests.  They do the maintenance and janitorial duties as well, and for free, except for a free campsite with water and electricity.  Small potatoes compared to what they do for the campground.  I only hope that John Crockett, the Forest Service supervisor for that area, and formerly of the Arkansas staff, will get over his paranoia/guilt and reconsider this decision.  The evaluation was made by staff members, and did not employ the expertise of a certified hydrologist.  I feel sorry for the locals who use this facility  as their only vacation experience as well as those of us who drive hours to use this jewel of a campground.  Will I drive 2 hours to gamble on an open site out of 10?  Probaby not.  Will I miss this experience?  Definitely so.

  6. Captain Chuck

    The entire forward portion of the campground is blocked off by boulders, minus the two sites across the creek at the entrance. The claim is “flood plain” designation, but I also suspect it has something to do with budget issues….be forewarned, if you go to these US Forestry Service campgrounds, Ranger Barney is waiting in the weeds to fine you for any and everything he can cite you for…$125 for parking on some grass, $125 for driving off the designated road…u name it!! “Do this, don’t do that…can’t you read the signs”??

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