Southfork Campground to reopen after 8-year closure due to wildfire


Photo Caption: New signage was installed after the Little Bear Fire and subsequent flooding damaged the campground in 2012.
(Courtesy: Lincoln National Forest)

RUIDOSO, N.M. (KRQE) — The Southfork Campground on the Smokey Bear Bear Ranger District near Ruidoso is getting ready to open its gates for the first time in eight years. The campground was damaged by the Little Bear Fire in 2012 and will open on Friday.

All the damaged shade structures, picnic tables, dumpsters and fire rings were replaced. A new trailhead, signage, kiosk and fee deposit station were also installed. There have been more than 1,000 shrubs and trees planted above the campground as well.

A campsite will cost $10 per vehicle and is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Only a max of two vehicles per site is allowed.

The campsites are ready to use and forest officials are encouraging visitors to keep the areas clean. They also are encouraging any helpful campers to remove pine needles and pinecones at their campsites. They’d also like campers to post before and after pictures of the pinecone free campsite to Facebook with the hashtag “ILoveSouthForkCampground.”

Photo Caption: View from Southfork looking into the White Mountain Wilderness after the Little Bear Fire in 2012. The Little Bear Fire was started by lightning and burned over part of the Southfork Campground. (Courtesy: Lincoln National Forest)

History of Southfork Campground

In 2012, the Southfork Campground was severely damaged by the Little Bear Fire. The fire burned the upper drainage, parts of the campground and several outhouses. After the fire was contained, a nearby drainage blew out of its channel and took out several campsites and one bathroom.

In 2014, forest officials developed a plan to rebuild after doing a hydrologic analysis showing where flooding could occur again. Fifty-three of the original 60-plus campsites are ready to be used again. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only half of the sites will be available this summer.

The Mexican Spotted Owl, a threatened species, was discovered in 2017 living the campground. According to a release, it likely moved into the campground because its habitat had been destroyed by the Little Bear Fire. Due to the discovery of the owls, the work at the campground was postponed during the breeding season. Eventually the restoration resumed and ponderosa and Douglas fir seedlings were planted 20 acreas near the campground.

The Southfork Campsite was set to open Memorial Day 2020, but that was postponed due to COVID-19.

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