The popular Fifth Water Hot Springs in Diamond Fork Canyon reopened Memorial Day weekend after being closed for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Luke Decker, district ranger for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Spanish Fork Ranger District, said that the closure was due to the differing guidance that was being given out by state and federal officials. The rangers were tasked with doing their best to follow those guidelines, and after working with the Utah County Health Department it was determined that a closure was best.
Right before the closure, Decker said that there were roughly 93 cars in the area, and noted that the smallest group of people he has seen in a car is three.
“Since it is a destination where folks gather together in tight quarters there, sitting in the hot springs, we decided that we couldn’t keep the hot springs open and manage to the CDC and state guidelines,” Decker said. “We decided to put a closure in for public health and safety to go along with the CDC and state guidance. Throughout the last year, we were coordinating with the county health department as new guidance came out from the state and CDC to find out if we could open our hot springs and manage them to any new guidance that came out.”
During the first two weeks of the closure, the forest service educated people looking to hike to the springs and gave out warnings while asking that people comply with the closure.
Early during the closure, Decker said there would be 30 to 50 cars but later on, in the closure, there would be six to 15 cars in the area. Decker characterized it as a great reduction in people looking to bathe in the springs.
Later in the COVID-19 pandemic, Decker did say that some citations were given out to people who were in the area but that was a last resort. If people were willing to comply with the closure, then tickets were not given out.
“That was more to ensure that we could keep those numbers down,” Decker said. “There’s never going to be 100% compliance, but it was being able to keep those numbers down below where the state and federal regulations were. Closing it and issuing a few citations was our best way to manage to those guidelines and keep the numbers in check.”
According to Decker, the closure of the springs has been an evolving situation that rangers would discuss with the health department. Based on vaccinations and COVID-19 transmission levels, the hot springs were reopened on Memorial Day weekend.
With the reopening, Decker said he saw about 76 cars in the area on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, adding that the traffic is back to what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s great, we were disappointed to close it but we felt like that was the best way we could manage to those state and federal guidelines,” Decker said. “It was great to be able to open it on the holiday weekend for folks in the middle of summer where the sun is up. I think it’s great for folks to be able to use it again, I hope folks will enjoy it and also be safe up there.”
On thing Decker stressed about the reopening was trash near the hot springs. During the closure, there was a significant reduction in trash and he hopes people will continue to pack out whatever trash they may have.
The goal is to keep the springs nice for all of those who visit.