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2023 Fire Campout at Ruth Lake May 20-21

Updated: May 1, 2023

WHAT: 2023 Fire Campout

WHO: All are welcome!

WHEN: May 20–21, 2023 (recommended arrival Friday, May 19)

WHERE: Fir Cove Campground, Bridgeville, Six Rivers National Forest, Humboldt County, CA (approx. 2-3 hours inland from the coast)

WHY: To appreciate fire as a key element of California’s ecosystems and examine natural post-fire recovery on the landscape. Bring your camping/field gear, food, and a comfy chair.

To register, email Susan Nolan with the number in your party.


Sunday morning bird walk led by Fred Bauer at the 2022 Fire Campout. Photo by Susan Nolan.

The 2023 fire campout is shaping up! While there is a lot of information these days about controlling fire for human purposes, we don’t hear much about fire as a critical part of California’s ecosystems, integrated into the life cycles of many life forms. The campout aims to look at wildfire with an open mind — to appreciate natural post-fire recovery, to accept long-term changes, to challenge not only the old myths but also the new conventional thinking, and to consider the medium and long term consequences of what we do in a crisis. One participant described it as "casual but deep, with a volunteer spirit.”

The fire campout is a free event sponsored by the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). All are welcome. We hope to appreciate fire as a key element of California’s ecosystems and to examine natural post-fire recovery. Nature knows what to do!

Email Susan Nolan to register or with any questions.


EPIC's Staff Attorney Matt Simmons lecturing at the 2022 Fire Campout. Photo by Susan Nolan.

Camping will be based in the Fir Cove Campground, $12/night, right on Ruth Reservoir. It has drinking water and a couple of well cared for vault toilets. The campground was not burned in 2020, but the August fire perimeter is right on the other side of the road. The Forest Service doesn’t take reservations and camp sites are on a first come first serve basis; if Fir Cove is full, similar Bailey Canyon Campground is a couple miles down the road. Two campgrounds run by the Ruth Community Services District (Hobart Creek and Ruth Rec) lie beyond that; they have showers. All are right on the road and easy to find. Bring your camping/field gear, food, and a comfy chair.


Field trip to Mad River Ridge on the 2022 Fire Campout. Photo by Susan Nolan.

Friday arrival is suggested so that you can camp overnight and be ready for the weekend's activities.

Saturday, May 20

  • 10 a.m. - Matt Simmons from EPIC will talk about salvage logging.

  • 2 p.m. - We’ll put our new knowledge to use with a fieldtrip to look at recent salvage logging carried out by the Forest Service after the August Complex fire, and compare with nearby unlogged land.

  • Evening - Potluck dinner, bring your specialty, or bread or chips ’n dip for you non-cooks, whatever! Last year’s meal was scrumptious.

Sunday, May 21

  • Morning - Early morning bird walk is shaping up.

  • 10 a.m. - Susan Nolan will talk about lessons learned from backpacking in burned areas.

  • 2 p.m. - Drive up to Jones Ridge, passing through the largest area of severe burn in the August Complex fire, for some long range views over the Yolla Bolly panhandle and northern Mendocino County, and hike into a burned area where conifers were mostly killed, but most other trees, shrubs and forbs are coming back well. Ambitious hikers can head over to Red Mountain, a big serpentine outcrop.


Take 101 to Highway 36, south of Fortuna, and head east. If this is your first time on 36, it is not a 70 mph road, give it plenty of time. At the straggling little town of Mad River, about 50 miles from 101, turn south onto Mad River Road (NOT Mad River Rock) and go south 20 minutes to the campground.

Drive east through Alderpoint and cross the river. About a mile past the river is a three-way fork. Stay in the middle (this is more confusing on the way home). After the rough road along Zenia Bluffs you’ll make a spectacular climb to Zenia (don’t blink). Watch for signs, you want to go toward Ruth, not Kettenpom. After much winding through forested hills, you’ll come to a grassy opening with a barn. Take a right turn before the barn. Next landmark, lovely Hettenshaw Valley. Then over the last big hill to Ruth Reservoir. When the road splits near the water, turn left to circle around its north end and then bear right, you’re almost there. If you are confused at a junction, a local will be along before long. This is a slow, hilly, sometimes rough road, also truly lovely, give yourself lots of time. A convoy will leave from Garberville on Friday afternoon, email Susan Nolan if you’d like to join it.


The carbon footprint of this event is troubling. Please think about carpooling for the drive out there and back. A convoy will leave from Garberville on Friday afternoon, please email Susan Nolan if you’d like to join it or otherwise rideshare to the event. Carpooling for field trips is also encouraged.


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