THE VISITOR INFORMATION STATION
By Eileen Buckel
When I tell people that I volunteer at the Visitor Information Station (VIS) at the entrance to Madera Canyon, I frequently hear “I never see it open.” Presently the Information Station is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Why isn’t it open more? Here’s why:
On a typical month, being open only at those times and with no special events (e.g. Easter or Mother’s Day), it takes 40 people to fill the schedule. Some people graciously volunteer for two shifts a month. There has been discussion about trying to open earlier (8:00 AM) or stay open later (until 4:00 PM), but that would be adding another 20 slots to the already full schedule. During the summer, because many of our volunteers are winter residents, it is particularly hard to cover all the existing slots. We always need more volunteers. The only requirement is that you belong to the Friends of Madera Canyon for insurance purposes (required by the U.S. Forest Service). Training to work in the VIS is provided.
Here’s what we do at the Information Station:
We greet every car that takes the bypass to the Information Station, welcoming them to Madera Canyon and asking if they’ve been here before. If they haven’t, we provide a map if they want one and let them know about the Forest Service Developed Area Use fee which is required for every car that parks in the canyon. We do not collect money. Visitors pay when they park, in envelopes provided by the Forest Service. Since the Canyon is United States Forest Service land, a Coronado National Forest permit or any national pass (Golden Age/Senior, handicapped, National Parks pass, etc.) is honored for free parking. In addition, we have lists of birds and a hiking trail guide to the Canyon.
We answer questions like “Is there water running in the creek?,” “Is there snow in the Canyon?” are horses allowed (yes), are dogs allowed (yes, on a leash), are fires allowed (yes, only in the fire grills provided), “Have any bears been seen?,” “Is there camping in the Canyon? (yes, only at Bog Springs). We also get visitors who arrive at Madera Canyon accidentally because they think they can drive through the Canyon to get to Patagonia (you can’t). Another question we get is how to get to Highway 83 (via the dirt road known as Box Canyon Road going east off of Whitehouse Canyon Road.) A related question is if a passenger car can make it through Box Canyon (most of the time, yes, but not during monsoon season). We have printed resources and up-to-date information from the Ranger to help visitors. We count every car that comes through the Information Station for statistical purposes. We also pass out Junior Ranger materials to any children in the cars.
We have visitors from foreign countries as well as many, many out of state visitors.
Wouldn’t you like to join us? You would have a great time meeting interesting people from all over the world who want to enjoy a day’s adventure in our unique mountain oasis.