Popular Madera Canyon is the latest victim of the federal government’s partial shutdown.
The road into the canyon, 40 miles south of Tucson, on Wednesday was closed at its entrance to hikers, bird-watchers, picnickers, campers and sightseers.
A spokesman at the entrance station said the indefinite closure applies to everyone except for a few guests at privately run lodges in the canyon.
One result of the sudden absence of people: Wild turkeys were wandering freely Wednesday afternoon along the deserted main canyon road and in a lodge parking lot.
Details on the closure weren’t immediately available because officials of the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the canyon, are on furlough during the shutdown and are not responding to telephone or email queries.
Confirmation of the closure came by way of a news release from the Pima County Department of Transportation. It said, “Beginning Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, until further notice, the U.S. Forest Service, Coronado National Forest, will be closing Madera Canyon Road from the recreation center pay station to the top area of the canyon to all traffic.”
When a reporter visited the canyon, the road was blocked off with barricades, and drivers were routed to the entrance station. There, a volunteer said people with plans to stay at lodges in the canyon are the only drivers allowed to go around the barricades and enter.
Lodges stay open
Owners of the three lodges — the Santa Rita Lodge, Madera Kubo Bed & Breakfast and the Chuparosa Inn Bed & Breakfast — said they are remaining open for business during the canyon closure.
The closure “has had an impact on business,” said Steve Holt, owner of the Santa Rita Lodge. “Once they closed the road Wednesday afternoon, that really slowed things down. But we are open, and the Forest Service says people can come to the lodge.”
Holt said people renting cabins or casitas must leave their vehicles parked on lodge property.
“They can access trails, but they can’t use facilities” such as parking areas or public restrooms in the canyon, he said.
Nancy Hertel, co-owner of the Chuparosa Inn, said guests will be able to enter the canyon but should come directly to the inn for parking and registration.
“There is no place for people to park (at trailheads or picnic sites) because the parking areas are closed,” Hertel said.