Date: August 12, 2008
Pat Harty, a BLM fuels specialist in Lewistown, stands on a recently cleared portion of Limekiln Loop Trail. It's estimated that a wind event this past June downed approximately 1.5 million board feet of timber and blocked the eastern portion of the trail.
Contact: Craig Flentie (406) 538-1943
Limekiln Trail Re-opened After Wind Storm
The “wind event” this past June at the head of Limekiln Canyon in the Judith Mountains probably lasted less than a minute, but it left behind about 200 acres of downed timber on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and made a portion of the Limekiln Loop Trail absolutely impassable.
Since that event, the BLM forestry and fuels staff, members from the Central Montana Fire Zone and members of the Judith Basin Backcountry Horsemen have been scrambling to make the scenic hiking trail usable again and to address the long term forest health issues created by about 1.5 million board feet of downed and scattered timber.
The downed timber has been cleared from parts of the existing trail and BLM staffers recently completed re-routing a detour along that portion of the trail that cannot be cleared in a timely manner.
With the clearing and re-routing work completed, hikers can once again enjoy the entire loop trail; although extra precautions need to be taken on about a mile of the detoured trail along the ridge that separates Limekiln Canyon and Ruby Gulch.
The detoured route has been marked with red paint dots at eye level along the entire detoured route. The north end of the temporary route has been cut through approximately 300 yards of the old Burnette Peak Burn area before entering the standing timber.
This mile-long temporary detour is passable; however hikers need to be aware that the re-routed trail is very rough, similar to a “bushwack” trail that is simply marked with a “blaze line.” The detour has not been dug out down to bare mineral soil. Although users should be able to easily follow the red markings from one end of the detour trail to the other, they will encounter brush, some logs and forest litter on the ground and side slopes of up to 25%. Downed logs will be slick, especially following rain, and rocks and litter layers may cause unstable footing. Combined, these circumstances create abnormal forest hiking inconveniences for even experienced hikers and hikers are encouraged to use extreme caution.
Maps of the trail showing the reroute are available at the BLM’s Lewistown Field Office (920 NE Main Street in Lewistown).
The BLM and the Montana Department of Natural Resources are working on a longer term plan to address wind event damage and several other forest health issues in the Limekiln and Ruby Gulch areas. “One of our major concerns is the high fire risk this blow down presents to several drainages in the Judith Mountains. We have some ideas, but certainly want the benefit of public involvement before we determine how to approach these issues. We’ll be hosting a public scoping meeting in mid to late September and will be advertising the date, time and location as quickly as we have the details in place,” offered Bruce Reid, a BLM forester in Lewistown.
In the interim, the Limekiln Hiking Trail is open to the public, although extra caution should be used when hiking.
If you have questions about the Limekiln Hiking Trail, please contact Willy Frank at the BLM’s Lewistown Field Office at 406-538-1900.