SANTA FE — The Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) has reissued a closure order that prohibits the public from entering Jemez Cave and closes public access to trails that lead to the cave as well as the area immediately surrounding it.
This closure order, which replaces one issued in 2019, is effective until April 30, 2023, unless it is rescinded earlier.
Jemez Cave is located on the Jemez Ranger District in the Soda Dam Geologic Special Interest Area adjacent to NM Highway 4. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Jemez Cave is culturally significant to the Pueblo of Jemez and an important archaeological site subject to the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA).
The closure order protects cultural and natural resources and public safety while archaeologists assess the cave’s condition and develop a long-term management strategy for the Jemez Cave area. Prior to the initial closure order in July 2012, the area was popular with overhead rock climbers and other recreationists, whose activities damaged the site. With this closure in force, rock climbers still have access to multiple climbing areas on the Jemez District.
The closure order prohibits members of the public from entering Jemez Cave or being in the restricted area that extends 50 feet upslope from the roof of cave, 50 feet on either side of the mouth of the cave, and downslope to the NM Highway 4 right-of-way, including all trails that lead to the cave. The restricted area does not include the unimproved parking area immediately adjacent to the highway right-of-way.
Federal, state and local officers, members of an organized rescue team or firefighting force, and any others authorized by permit are exempt from the closure order. That exemption includes Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative employees conducting routine maintenance on existing power lines and poles.
Signs at the mouth of the cave, along the access trail and in the parking lot adjacent to NM Highway 4 will notify the public that the area is closed to public entry. Violation of the closure order is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, imprisonment of not more than six months, or both.
Copies of the closure order and map are available at the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) Headquarters and the Jemez Ranger District Office and will be posted on the SFNF website.