On July 15, 2004 Eldorado National Forest Supervisor John Berry signed a temporary order closing the Spider Lake area, adjacent to the Rubicon four-wheel drive trail, to public use for 120 days due to a public health hazard. The order closes the National Forest land around Spider Lake and works in conjunction with El Dorado County’s emergency resolution closing the private land in the area. The Rubicon 4WD trail is open for through traffic.
This closure was the result of human waste/sanitation issues around the high Sierra Nevada Spider Lake. The Rubicon Trail has no sanitation facilities and uninformed users were leaving human waste dangerously close to water sources. Friends of the Rubicon (FOTR) has been working with governing agencies for three years to get sanitation methods in place on the trail, but as of yet, no good solution has been found.
The Rubicon Trail runs through solid granite areas, with very shallow soil profiles. The shallow depth of the soils, combined with the solid granite prevalent throughout the area, make standard toilet options impractical. Further, because of the serious nature of four-wheeling required to traverse the trail, standard pumping trucks and extraction methods are not practical either.
FOTR, as well as other clubs, have been cleaning up the trail and removing the human waste for years. But this year the trail use increased dramatically and the human waste disposal became a real significant issue. There are no designated camping spots around Spider Lake, it is a dispersed camping area. So campers were spreading out over a wide area, and camping too close to the lake.
FOTR has launched a major effort to help both the County and the USDA Forest Service in the management of this increased use of the Rubicon Trail. It is hoped that the closure can be lifted sooner than the November 10 date. But for now, the Spider Lake area closed to all access of any kind. The Little Sluice Box and remainder of the Rubicon Trail are open as always.