The extended Memorial Day weekend will be here in short order and for many climbers the 3-day weekend affords us the opportunity to hit the road to our favorite climbing destination. One area sure to be inundated with climbers over the holiday weekend will be Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, an area that is, frankly, in danger of being “loved” to death. Previous years have seen areas closed, continued access issues at the areas that remain open and a marked increase in accidents.
The latest access issue to come up is at the extremely popular crag known as Roadside. Home to probably the highest concentration of “easy” sport routes at the Red along with a host of classic 5.12s all minutes from…wait for it…the road, Roadside is a favorite for many climbers myself included.
It’s also on private property and has been since 2004.
Based on a handful of complaints from the owners that include unauthorized route development, unauthorized installation of permadraws and general problems related to overcrowding Roadside has been closed until further notice.
The loss of this popular area right before (probably) the busiest weekend of the year will mean more crowds elsewhere, most likely at the already busy (and also privately owned) Muir Valley. Last weekend the owners of Muir Valley estimate they saw over 700 visitors to their property and expect even more this weekend. Since a lot of my readers climb at the Red I thought I’d share this post from Muir Valley owner Rick Weber laying out some of their concerns for the coming weekend (emphasis mine):
Memorial Day weekend has always been our busiest weekend of the year at Muir. This year we are already seeing a record number of visitors. We have concerns about being able to accommodate crowds expected this weekend.
As many of you know, last weekend the water system for the restrooms at Muir broke down. We are currently working on a major fix that involves running a new water line up the road and connecting with municipal water. This will block a portion of the parking lot and access to our driveway (in which we had 52 cars – of a total of 111 – parked last Saturday) Although we hope to have the work done by this next weekend (Memorial Day) there are no promises. (Weather!)
Combine the record crowds, the excavation work, and the recently-announced closure of Roadside (Graining Fork Nature Preserve), and you can appreciate our concern about the weekend.
When we can no longer accommodate cars, we will have no other choice but to close Muir to additional visitors for the day. So plan to arrive early if you wish to climb here. And consider car pooling. And of course, follow Mom’s instructions to “go before you leave home” in case we weren’t able to finish the restrooms.
When we have to put the sign up saying “Muir is Full for the day”, please respect that sign. Do not park along the county road or on our neighbors’ property. Climb elsewhere and come back another day.
So, if you’re heading down this weekend or any time in the near future keep this information in mind when making your plans. Remember to be flexible, be patient and if parking lots anywhere are full maybe you should consider finding somewhere else to climb.
While these specific situations only impact climbers at the Red, I’m guessing similar situations are playing out around the country. While you’re out climbing this holiday weekend take a moment to think about how you can minimize your impact on the areas in which you are climbing.