Red Bluff Recreation Area, improvements continue

Cody Norris
Forest Service Mark Twain National Forest
Road construction and paving of the loop roads at Red Bluff Recreation Area sets the stage for the beginning of Phase 2.

Red Bluff, located in Crawford County along Huzzah Creek, is one of Mark Twain National Forest’s signature recreation sites.  Plans were approved in 2018 to move the overnight camping facilities out of the floodplain for safety reasons. Camping loop roads have now been completed. Construction of the camping spurs and amenities will happen in the near future, as the contract is now being advertised.

Red Bluff’s old camping loops were subjected to two types of floods—flash flooding and prolonged river flood events—through the years because of where the loops were located, directly adjacent to Huzzah Creek.  Becky Ewing, District Ranger, is very excited about getting sites out of the flood plain.  “The flash flooding potential has been a safety concern, but both types of floods have torn up camping spurs, restrooms, and roads over and over again,” stated Ewing.

The 2015 and 2017 floods took a heavy toll on the recreation area.  The Federal Highways Administration awarded Mark Twain National Forest $642,342 in Betterment Funding through the Emergency Relief for Federally Owned (ERFO) Roads Program to move the camping loop roads out of the floodplain.  Amy Wilson, Forest Engineer, expressed the importance of this program, stating, “The ERFO funding made it possible to find a solution to the continued damage these facilities were experiencing from repeated flooding.”

The North Loop, South Loop, and Group Loop road construction contract was completed and passed Forest inspection this month. “Contractors have finished spreading the rock base and laying down asphalt,” said Wilson.

The Forest Service’s Technical Services Team joined the project in February 2020 to complete the engineering design and contract specifications for the camping spurs, restrooms, shower building, and dump station.  “This team of engineers and landscape architects came together from all over our Eastern Region to help us design the new campground,” said Ewing.

A pre-bid meeting was held at Red Bluff for contractors interested in bidding on the campground construction project.  The Forest Service contracting officer will open and review bids in September with hopes of awarding the contract soon thereafter. Environmental planning work for Phase 2 of the project will also begin this fall.  Phase 2 includes the decommissioning of the facilities in the floodplain along with restoration of the stream channel and banks.

Camping in the lower and upper loops of the existing campground will remain open for public use until the new campground sites are completed further up the hill.  At that time, discussions will begin about what to do with the old sites.  Ewing explained, “We will soon be reaching out to get ideas about what the public would like to see happen to the area along the Huzzah River within Red Bluff, once the old loops there stop being used for camping and become part of the day-use area; so stay tuned.”