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Headwaters Visitor Survey - 2012 

Photo banner of family riding their bikes along Elk River Trail, hikers on Salmn Pass Trail, Person pushing another person in a wheelchair and walking a dog, Headwaters Education Center, hikers on Trail

Daniel White and Dr. Steven Martin of Humboldt State University recently partnered with the BLM on a visitor survey for the Headwaters Forest Reserve. Between May 26 to September 16, 2012, these researchers contacted 683 individuals at the Elk River Trailhead.

The final survey report is now available for download!

<<<<<<<<<<<Download the Report>>>>>>>>>>>

The front cover of the 2012 Headwaters Visitor Survey Report

Headwaters Recreation Public Meeting

The BLM hosted a presentation/discussion on the survey report's findings on November 16, 2013, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Headwaters Education Center. The BLM received some great ideas from the attending public. If you've got ideas to share regarding recreation at Headwaters, feel free to email them to

Some questions addressed at this meeting:

  • What improvements are needed to the BLM's management of this area?
  • How can the BLM better manage conflict between dog walkers and other visitors to the Elk River Trail?
  • How could the BLM could improve recognition and enforcement of existing rules and regulations?

Summary of Key Findings

By comparing results of this study to a similar one completed in 1999, the BLM can examine how the recreational experience in Headwaters has changed over time. This information can then be used to determine if any changes to BLM management are warranted. One major change from 1999 to 2012 is the number of visitors to the Elk River Trail. The survey estimated that visitation has increased by 80% over this 13-year period. A summary of some other key findings is provided below.

Visitor Characteristics

The survey identified some key changes from 1999 to 2012 in the characteristics of visitors to Headwaters. Visitor age and level of highest completed education has increased, as have the number of families coming to the trail. Group size has decreased, as has the length of visits to Headwaters and the distance hiked on those visits. Nearly 50% of all visitor groups bring at least one dog on their visit to Headwaters.

Chart showing the age of visitors to Headwaters. The most common age groups (from most to least common) were 50 to 59, 30 to 39, 60 to 69, 18 to 29 and 40 to 49.

Chart of group size for visitors to the Elk River Trail in Headwaters. Th most common group sizes were (from most to least common) 2, 1, 3, and 4.

Chart of the distance hiked on visits to Headwaters. The most common distances (from most to least common) are to Falk, to the first bridge, to the second bridge, and to the Education Center.

Chart showing the duration of visits to Headwaters. The most common trip durations were (from most to least common) 1 to 2 hours, 2 to 4 hours, and less than one hour.

Chart of the percentage of visitors to Headwaters that bring dogs. Just under half of visitors bring dogs on visits.

Chart showing the number of previous visits to Headwaters. Th emost common number of visits were (from most to least common) 0, 1 to 5, 6 to 10, and 11 to 20.

Visitor Conflict

While the number of others seen can create conflict in some recreational areas, this does not appear to be a problem for visitors to Headwaters. Only 3% of respondents claimed that they saw too many people on their visit.

Perceived resource impacts caused by other visitors were identified by 28% of visitors. The most common resource impacts cited were related to dog waste and dogs swimming in the South Fork Elk River. The problem of other visitors interfering with visit enjoyment ocurred for 8% of respondents. Nearly half of the problems cited related to unleashed and/or uncontrolled dogs.

Assessment of Headwaters Dog Policy (current policy is that dogs must be on leash or under voice control)

The BLM's resource management plan for Headwaters calls for continued monitoring of the dog policy for Headwaters. In the 2012 survey, 57% of respondents claimed that the BLM's voice control policy for dogs is working (only 36% of visitors who don't bring dogs agreed with this statement). Only 25% of respondents claimed that the BLM adequately enforces its dog policy at Headwaters (only 11% of visitors who don't bring dogs agree with this statement).

In terms of future changes to this policy, visitors are largely divided. Approximately half the respondents (48%) go to Headwaters specifically because no leash is required for dogs. Another half of the respondents (44%) would support a rule change that would require leashes for dogs.

Visitor Perceptions of Other Management Issues

Visitor perceptions of resource problems have decreased since 1999. The most commonly identified resource problem in 2012 was trail erosion, which was cited as a major or moderate problem by approximately 8% of respondents. 

The most commonly cited management problems were "not enough trails" and "not enough trails information". These two problems were identified as major or moderate by 22% and 10% of respondents, respectively.

Regarding social problems, the most commonly cited issues were dog waste and pets off leash. These problems were identified as major or moderate by 15% and 14% of respondents, respectively. 

When asked about BLM services and facilities, the BLM ranked relatively high in all categories. The categories for which the BLM ranked lowest were "clean restrooms" and "able to find a BLM person when needed".

In response to questions about possible future management actions, the most popular actions were "expand the trail system", "have a donation box at the trailhead", "acquire additional land to add to the Reserve", "provide educational signs about the area's history", and "provide educational signs about plants and animals".