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Castle Rocks Finally Opens to Climbing


by Editor

June 26, 2003

Camp4 - Climbing News Archive

Over Memorial Day weekend, Castle Rock Ranch opened for public use after 5 years of effort. The 400-foot high pinnacles and monoliths attracted climbers for years but were privately owned and off-limits until recently. In 1999 the Conservation Fund and the Access Fund teamed up to buy the ranch, and subsequently the Castle Rock Ranch Acquisition Act of 2000 authorized the National Park Service (NPS) to purchase the 1,240-acre ranch with the understanding that the area would be turned into a state park and opened for public recreation, specifically climbing. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR), the same agency that currently manages City of Rocks National Reserve, will manage the state-owned portion of “Castles” (BLM and USFS land lies behind the state park).

After time consuming environmental analyses by the NPS, the state of Idaho began planning for the opening of the park in late 2002. In January, Access Fund Policy Director Jason Keith facilitated a climbing management plan workshop at Castles with participants from the American Alpine Club, the Boise Climbers’ Alliance and individual climbers from Salt Lake City, Pocatello, Ketchum, Boise, and Jackson. Part of the climbing management plan for Castles included a unique provision for climbers to enter the park before the general public, and following an intensive orientation, establish new routes using fixed anchors in “Zone One,” which had been cleared by IDPR after surveying for sensitive natural and cultural resources. The thought behind this “pre-opening” was to prevent a rush on opening day for the many new routes available at Castles, but to also prevent any possible conflicts with other user groups once the park opened.

Over 50 new routes were established on opening day, and a host of happy climbers raved about the climbing at Castles, which is comparable to the neighboring City of Rocks. Additional zones may open up to new route development as early as this summer, but route developers must attend a short education and orientation program at the contact center and possess a valid permit to place fixed anchors.

Castle Rocks State Park is open as a day-use facility between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, and between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Friday-Sunday during the months of September, October, April, and May. All recreation users must pay a motor vehicle entrance fee or exhibit an annual pass or Idaho VIP pass. When the 25 parking facilities are maximized, additional vehicles will be excluded until space is available. Users entering on bike, horse or foot will be permitted without charge or concern for parking capacity up to a total occupancy of 75 people at any given time. For more information, contact the City of Rocks Visitor Center at 208-824-5519.

News courtesy of The Access Fund.

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