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Courtesy the Coronado National Forest
TUCSON – Pena Blanca Lake west of Nogales, Arizona on the Nogales Ranger District, Coronado National Forest, which has been closed since October 2008 due to an environmental clean-up project, will partially re-open Friday, Sept. 4.
While the Lake has not refilled with water, the public will be allowed into the area to view and assess the results of the reclamation project, and to use nearby recreation facilities closed since last fall.
The locked gate on SR289 will be moved to allow entry to the Lake and to Lower Thumb Picnic Area, Upper Thumb Picnic Area, and Lower White Rock Campsite.
In addition, Red Rock Campground and its access road on the east side of the Lake will also be reopened.
The public is welcome to picnic and camp in the facilities provided; however, activities near or within the dry lake bed will be restricted by Forest Service officials on site. No vehicles, including ATVs, OHVs, or bicycles, will be allowed past the boat ramp parking area. Because so little water has collected in the lake bed and because fish have not been restocked, there is no swimming, boating, or fishing.
The public is also asked to avoid fish habitat structures in the dry areas of the lake bed. These structures were built by the Arizona Game & Fish Department to provide protection to fish that will eventually be re-introduced into the lake after water levels rise. (See attached photo.)
Restoration of the Lake included draining all water, sediment sampling, construction of sediment control structures, and the excavation and removal of contaminated sediment to a nearby consolidation cell just north of Lower Thumb Picnic Area. This consolidation cell will remain closed to the public.
Draining the lake also provided an opportunity to remove invasive, non-native bullfrogs, which prey on native frogs, fish, reptiles and small mammals. The Arizona Game and Fish Department, Coronado National Forest, Sky Island Alliance, University of Arizona, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and others worked together to eliminate bullfrogs in the project area.
For further information, the public should contact the Nogales Ranger District office at 520-281-2296.
NOTE: The public is reminded that washes must be crossed to access Pena Blanca Lake. Visitors should be aware of local weather conditions and flash flood warnings, including forecasted weather conditions associated with the approach of Hurricane Jimena.