The Richardson Lake Trail is open!


The Richardson Lake Trail, 14N39, is open!

U.S. Forest Service

Eldorado National Forest
100 Forni Road

Placerville, CA  95667



Facebook: www.facebook/EldoradoNF

     image  News Release


Jennifer Chapman, (530) 957-9660

For Immediate Release

Date: August 21, 2015

Upper Richardson Lake Road Now Open
PLACERVILLE, CA – The upper part of the Richardson Lake Road (14N39) on the Pacific Ranger District in the Eldorado National Forest is now open for motorized vehicle use, completing the final phase of corrective work on this route.   
Richardson Lake Road is on the far northeastern end of the forest, and must be accessed through roads leading from the Lake Tahoe area. This 2.65 mile road is used to access Richardson Lake for camping and fishing, and travel to the top of Sourdough Hill to enjoy the scenic vistas, including a good view towards the Rubicon Trail. The route also provides access to the Pacific Crest Trail.  A 4WD vehicle must be used to reach this road.
The first phase of work allowed the Richardson Lake Road to be re-opened up to the Pacific Crest Trail beginning in July 2014.  Recently, improvements to the upper part of the road were completed in which a rolling dip was installed; an existing sediment basin was emptied and enlarged; and rock was placed over areas of bare ground. “These measures will help prevent erosion and protect delicate meadow ecosystems while allowing recreationists to enjoy one of the most popular motorized trails in the forest,” said District Ranger Richard Thornburgh.  
The Richardson Lake Trail (14N39)  was identified as one of 18 routes in the Eldorado National Forest travel system which needed corrections to comply with the environmental protection guidelines in the Sierra Nevada Plan. These routes were closed in 2012 to complete further analysis and make corrections to ensure the hydrologic connectivity of meadows would not be significantly impacted by motorized vehicle use.   
Other routes which have re-opened after meadow protection work was completed are:
  • Barrett Lake 4WD Trail – opened July 23, 2015
  • Woods Spur, 10N01B – opened July 7, 2015
  • Mud Lake section of the Carson Emigrant Trail is now open up to Mud Lake, 17E32, and Allen’s Camp – opened June 2015
  • 09N08 Stockton Camp Road – opened September 2014
  • 11NY32 47 Mile Road – opened October 2014
  • 16E33 North Shanty Spur – opened November 2014
  • 10N14 Mule Canyon – opened November 2014
  • 10N13 Schneider Camp Road up to the new parking area near the old barn spur road – opened November 2014
For more information about work in progress to re-open additional routes, visit the Travel Management section of the Eldorado National Forest website at    

Major 14N39 trail work by ENF

So, I headed out to the Rubicon to place more carsonite trail markers, and came across a large “Road work ahead” sign at the staging area. I was meeting John Briggs, the Friends of the Rubicon Tahoe side lead. We moved markers at a few of the campsites and later placed markers at the intersection of Forest Road 03 (Barker Pass Road) and 03-04.



After getting our volunteer commitments done, we headed up the Richardson Lake Trail (14N39) to see what was actually going on. We knew that the last ‘meadow’ was scheduled for work but wanted to see for ourselves.

On our way up the Rubicon earlier, we came across a HUGE dump truck. It was a Volvo 725. I believe that means a 25 yard bed. I had earlier asked the size of the hauler (before seeing it) and he said it could do 20 tons. This is a similar machine to the ones Placer used to haul so much material last summer. I think it was the same contractor.


We drove up 14N39 to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), where the trail temporarily ends and walked the short distance from there. There we met Tim Merten. He is a Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) civil engineer on loan to the Eldorado National Forest (ENF) to deal with the “42 Meadow Route Closures”.

At the ‘meadow’, there was a very large excavator working the section of trail that goes through the ‘meadow’. The plan calls for digging down almost two feet, laying cloth that will prevent the rock from sinking but allow water to pass, placing rip-rap about the size of a football, smaller rock on top of that and finally 3/4 crushed rock as ‘drain rock’. The final product should be able three inches above the grade of the ‘meadow’.



I was told they planned on three weeks to complete the work and I wondered if they were going to place each rock by hand.

What I later learned was the plan also calls for rebuilding twenty five (25) rolling dips along the trail as they work their way out.

With any luck, we’ll be driving to the top of Sourdough by the 20th!


14N39 to re-open!!!

We should still wait for the official word from the ENF  but this past weekend, the FS and two dozen volunteers ‘fixed’ the S&G100 issues along 14N39. At least we fixed the first three issues. The trail should now be open to a point past 14N39-7 but before 14N39-9.

14N39 map w meadows


Thanks to everyone involved!
We had a good turnout. Five trailers and one full size pick-up moving gravel (gravel/dirt/binder mix – like road base) the first day and three trailers running the second day. I didn’t count but probably 20 people the first day and 7 or 8 the next day.

The group built to rolling dips with the ‘gravel’, we covered about seven features with gravel, about 150′ of trail. We hand moved rock so the FS could rock line the sediment trap at the first ‘meadow’. Bad photo, but the trap is to the left where everyone is looking.


Once the gravel was dumped (Thank you RTF for the trailers, we had two working both days) the volunteers spread it to the depth required by the FS. The FS then sprayed it with water to activate the binding agent and then ran a ‘vibra-plate’ compactor over every square foot of gravel to pack it down. They were there very late on Sunday finishing that off, we left.

This is meadow 14N39-5. Heavy equipment rebuilt the rolling dip, the volunteers hauled and placed the gravel and the FS compacted it down.


This is meadow 14N39-7 (actually a creek issue). We built two rolling dips and spread forest debris to slow water and promote growth.



Special thanks to Mike for feeding us BOTH days.

The FS did install a fence further up the trail, past the last ‘meadow’ we fixed but before the last ‘meadow’ issue. They were to drive to the last meadow, turn around, drive down and place the gate at the first wide spot (to allow people to turn around) that was not a arch site.


I was the last one through the gate on a tour of 14N39-9 on July 16th.

The last meadow needs a re-route. We will be on the trail Wed to find the new route. There will be NEPA and the rest of the studies that go with it. Best case is we find a route on Wed, study it and plan it over the winter, and build it in 2015. Because it is a brand new road cut in the forest, it will need to ‘winter’ once before it can be driven, so look for it to open in 2016.

I will be pushing HARD for a temporary fix of that meadow so we can access the summit while the re-route is being planned and built. Stay tuned.

Picture just added but I’ll leave this one. I did have some fun moving trailers around:



Sent out Monday the 14th:

Forest Road 14N39 re-opened today as far as the Pacific Crest Trail. Our hydrologist verified that the Forest is in compliance with S&G 100 at Meadows 14N39-1, -5 and -7 based on the maintenance repairs completed to date. A big thanks to all the volunteers who worked so hard over the weekend!

Richard Thornburgh
Pacific District Ranger
Eldorado National Forest

7887 Highway 50
Pollock Pines, CA 95726



14N39 work party

We’re still working out the details but there is a work party scheduled for this weekend on the Richardson Lake Trail.

The basic plan is to harden the rolling dips made by heavy equipment last week by covering them and a few sections of trail with a gravel/dirt mix. We will also make at least one rolling dip and spread debris in an open area to slow storm runoff.

Volunteers are need and if you have a trailer, bring it. The FS will provide a front loader to load the trailers. RTF is making their trailers available for use and they have a dump bed which was discussed in an earlier post. RTF Trailer

Please join us at the Tahoma trailhead on this weekend Saturday the 12th and/or Sunday the 13th.

A discussion can be followed on




Working with the Eldorado National Forest?

As the only pro-OHV appellant from the east side of the Sierras, I have taken a personal interest in getting the Richardson Lake Trail, 14N39, reopened. One of my clubs, The North Tahoe Trail Dusters, often would organize a mid-week after work run to the top of Sourdough Peak for a BBQ and to watch the sunset. We’d then wheel down in the dark.

Trying to work ‘with’ the Eldorado National Forest (ENF) to get this trail reopened has been a challenge. My fallback line to them has been “Partnership Not Pushback” but it seems I get more pushback than partnership.

Early on, before the Record of Decision (ROD), I had organized a tour of 14N39. Scheduled to be there were all the right people from the ENF and the users to drive them. The day before the tour the head ENF ranger, Lawrence Crabtree, pulled the hydrologist to another project. We went anyway and documented the ‘meadow’ issues and how each could be fixed.

The ENF later changed the rules and claimed that no planning could be done on any fixes until the forest hydrologist could visit the trail and get eyes on the issue. They couldn’t read our notes and draft something; they couldn’t look at our photographs and draft something; they couldn’t work from the first hydrologist’s notes and draft something.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

But the hydrologist was not available later on to make it to the trail. Then the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit tried to help by sending their hydrologist to look at the trail. But an early snow flurry covered the trail the day before the scheduled tour. Let’s not discuss the fact that it didn’t snow again for months.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

So the winter went by with the ENF not willing to talk about possible fixes, not willing to talk about possible reroutes, not willing to talk about possible temporary fixes to the last meadow, not willing to talk about any possible maintenance, basically not willing to do anything that move this project forward. Pushback not partnership.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

Over the winter, I’m thinking about possible fixes to both the minor water issues and the last meadow reroute. I email a few questions to the ENF and don’t hear back. I finally email the boss of my ENF contact and I hear back from my contact. They snapped back about other things going on and being short staffed, etc. Pushback not partnership. They never did answered my questions.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

Spring arrives. I’ve already drafted a plan for the inevitable tour with the ENF and this time the hydrologist. Its three pages long: goals, objectives, list of possible attendees, communications plan, medical plan, timeline, etc. So, I contact the ENF to lay the groundwork for this tour that is still a month away due to snow.

I receive an email basically telling me that the ENF will send a group to tour the trail and then put out a plan of what the fixes will be. A second tour could be scheduled if needed for the appellants. Then there would be a comment period.

Read as a “How can we, the ENF, delay the reopening of this trail?”

There were so many ‘issues’ in this one email from the ENF that I contacted them and later drove over the hill to meet with them in person.

At the end of the meeting, I had still not got my way but had made a little ground. The ENF would still send out a team without users or appellants and would schedule a second tour with appellants, within a week, prior to drafting and publishing a plan. This would allow input from individuals outside the FS to comment prior to the ENF coming to a decision on how to fix any issues.

There are still many issues to ‘discuss’ with the ENF. The primary one being to start working on possible ways to temporarily ‘fix’ the last meadow issues to allow users to drive to the summit while the years long reroute gets completed.

Don’t worry, I’m still pushing. I’m aiming for a partnership but I’ll take anything as long as I can keep things moving forward.