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Don’t look for antiques at Camp Hale

Brief by Central Staff

Outdoors – August 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

If you’re wandering around the Camp Hale area, it’s probably not a good idea to pick things up — they could explode.

Camp Hale, on the west side of Tennessee Pass above Minturn, was established in 1943 as a training center for the U.S. Army’s famous Tenth Mountain Division. It remained in use into the 1960s for, among other things, training expatriate Tibetans to fight China for their homeland.

Now it’s just an historic part of White River National Forest with a few foundations from the military days.

Or so everyone thought, until last fall when four unexploded rifle grenades were found in an old target area. The Forest Service closed three miles of the Colorado Trail then, but re-opened it this summer after a sweep in June.

That sweep turned up a bazooka round and a rocket motor, which were exploded by Army munitions experts from Fort Carson.

Three agencies are concerned with the old munitions: the Colorado Department of Health, the Forest Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There’s a federal program — the Formerly Used Defense Sites program — for cleaning old military zones, but its budget is small, and experts estimate a full scour of Camp Hale would cost more than $2 million.

But there’s another possibility. Since “adventure tourism” and “extreme sports” are so popular these days, why not just post the area with “enter at your own risk” warnings that explain the dangers, and make it as big an attraction as a bungee-jumping park? And think of the profits from selling “I navigated the Camp Hale Minefield” T-shirts.