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Expect northern Arizona campsites to fill up for Memorial Day weekend

(Flickr Photo/Coconino National Forest)

PHOENIX – For many Phoenix-area residents, Memorial Day weekend means camping.

And that means crowded campsites in northern Arizona’s national forests, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Typically we see all of our campgrounds — especially through our Red Rock Ranger District, Oak Creek Canyon area, Sedona — fill up Thursday or Friday prior to [Memorial Day] weekend,” Brady Smith, Coconino National Forest spokesman, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday.

“So people just need to be aware, especially in the Sedona area, it will likely be very busy, and those campsites will fill up quickly.”

The expectations for the Tonto National Forest are similar.

“I would fully expect areas to fill up Thursday, or at the very latest Friday,” Tonto spokeswoman Carrie Templin told KTAR News.

Last year at this time, there were camping closures and restrictions throughout the state’s national forests because of fire hazards.

In the wake of a wet winter and spring, that’s not currently an issue.

“There won’t be any [fire] restrictions for Memorial Day weekend,” Templin said.

“We’ll continue to watch and see what the weather does, and if things continue to dry out and heat up, at some point we may have to consider restrictions, but not yet.”

However, with heavier-than-usual precipitation in recent months, and even this week, Mother Nature could make it a challenge for campers to stay warm and dry this weekend.

A late-season winter storm was expected to bring rain, and snow above 6,000 feet, to parts of northern Arizona on Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, snow was expected to impact travel on Interstates 17 and 40 and State Route 89A in the Flagstaff area and State Route 260 between Payson and Heber.

“We just ask people to try not to damage the roads. If they’re getting off on the roads … [and] creating ruts, just to find a different area, because the roads will be wet, and some of them will have snow, especially in the Mogollon Rim area,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, some places that have been used for camping around Bartlett, Roosevelt and Apache lakes are literally underwater.

“Areas that are on the shore — there’s no shoreline because we’ve had so much rain and the lakes are so full,” Templin said.

“So people are having trouble finding places to camp or find places that they can pull vehicles or trailers in because there’s no shoreline to camp at.”

Campers heading to the Payson area should be aware of overnight restrictions in six stretches along streams and rivers.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross contributed to this report.

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