This web page provides information on the history and ongoing activities related to environmental issues at Camp Hale, in west-central Colorado.
- For information about campgrounds and other access, please see:
- For more history of Camp Hale:
- Camp Hale was used as a military training site from 1942 to 1965.
- Both practice and live munitions were used in training.
- These munitions could still be present anywhere within the Camp Hale project area and could cause injury or death if disturbed.
- It’s estimated that up to 10 percent of the live munitions fired during training were "duds" that didn’t fire as designed. These munitions remain hazardous.
- Training and practice munitions may also be hazardous.
- These munitions can contain a type of spotting charge that simulates explosive impact.
- The spotting charge can vary from a few grains of black powder to several pounds of high explosive.
- Never assume that "training" or "practice" means a munition item is safe to touch.
- Even the least sensitive items may explode if exposed to careless and improper handling.
- It’s important to remember that military munitions were designed to destroy military supplies and equipment, and to kill or maim people.
- Regardless of their age, munition items retain their hazardous and dangerous nature.
- Leave the handling of munitions to trained experts who can assess the item and make the area safe.
The three “R’s” of munitions safety
- Recognizing when you may have encountered a munition is key to reducing the risk of injury or death.
- If you encounter or suspect you’ve encountered a munition, consider it extremely dangerous.
- Munitions are sometimes hard to see and identify. They may resemble:
- A pointed pipe.
- A soda can.
- A baseball.
- A muffler.
- Other metal objects.
- They may be:
- Visible on the surface.
- Exposed by erosion or fires.
- They may look new or old, be complete or in parts, be found alone or in groups.
- Any suspect items should be considered dangerous, regardless of size or apparent age.
- If you encounter or suspect you’ve encountered a munition, don’t touch, move or disturb it.
- Immediately and carefully leave the area, following the same path on which you entered.
- If you can, mark the general area — not the munition — in some manner (e.g., with a hat, piece of cloth, or tying a piece of plastic to a bush or tree branch).
- Call 911 immediately.
- Notify local law enforcement of what you saw and where you saw it.
- If you or someone you know may have collected munitions-related items as souvenirs, please notify law enforcement immediately so trained professionals can remove the items safely.
- Camp Hale was established in 1942 to provide winter and mountain warfare training during World War II.
- The site was acquired by purchase from private owners and by use permits from the U.S. Forest Service.
- The living area (cantonment area) was constructed in Eagle Park, east of U.S. 24 between Leadville and Red Cliff.
- The camp was established here because of the natural setting of a large, flat valley bottom, surrounded by steep hillsides suitable for training in skiing, rock climbing and cold-weather survival skills.
- The size of Camp Hale varied between 5,000 and 247,243 acres when it was an active military installation.
- From 1942 to 1965, Camp Hale was used to train the 10th Mountain Division, the 38th Regimental Combat Team, the 99th Infantry Battalion and soldiers from Fort Carson in mountain and winter warfare.
- The Army tested a variety of weapons and equipment at the site.
- From 1959 through 1965, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) secretly trained Tibetan soldiers at the installation.
- In July 1965, Camp Hale was deactivated and the Army returned control of the lands to the Forest Service in 1966.
- The Camp Hale project site is administered under the Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) program, which was formed as part of the 1986 amendment to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and assigned to the Department of Defense (DOD).
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) administers the FUDS program.
- The program is designed to address risks to human health and the environment due to past military activities in an area.
- The corps completed an Inventory Project Report on April 6, 1998, establishing Camp Hale as a Formerly Used Defense Site.
Project team responsibilities
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE, Omaha District).
- Conducts the environmental cleanup work on former military land under the Formerly Used Defense Site program.
- The Omaha District has overall management, contractual and funding responsibility for cleanup activities at Camp Hale.
- U.S. Forest Service.
- Owns and manages the majority of the land within the Camp Hale Formerly Used Defense Site boundary.
- Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
- Responsible for regulatory oversight for Colorado, ensuring compliance with all state laws and regulations.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Federal regulatory agency ensuring compliance with all federal laws and regulations.
- The currently defined project area is located on approximately 200,000 acres (about 312 square miles) of the White River and San Isabel National Forests.
- The project site is in Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Lake counties, between the towns of Red Cliff and Leadville, and extends from the eastern side of the Tenmile Range to the Mount of the Holy Cross.
- Most of the land within the Camp Hale boundaries is managed by the Forest Service.
- There are some small private land holdings within the various National Forests where Camp Hale is located.
Studies to date
- In 2008, the Army Corps of Engineers completed a Site Investigation on 14 Munitions Response Areas (MRSs).
- Remedial Investigation work began in summer 2011, and due to Camp Hale's significant size and short summer season, will likely continue over a number of years.
- We, the corps and the EPA, in coordination with the Forest Service, are prioritizing area that will be investigated first based on a number of criteria, including public recreational use and planned Forest Service maintenance projects.
Interim Risk Management Plan (IRMP)
- Because Remedial Investigations will continue over a number of years, we and the corps developed an Interim Risk Management Plan to manage potential risks from public exposure to potentially explosive hazards throughout the Camp Hale area.
- The objective of the plan is to enhance public safety by effectively managing potential risks from exposure to military munitions and explosives of concern until remedial actions are completed.
- Key components of the plan include:
- Identifying locations and user activities warranting risk management.
- Informing users of the potential to encounter munitions and explosives of concern.
- Instructing users on how to respond if they encounter suspected items.
- Ensuring that a formal process is in place to respond to suspected items when they are found.
Asbestos hazards and cleanup
- The decommissioning of military activities at Camp Hale resulted in demolition of all buildings and structures used during military training.
- In the 1960s, demolition of the Camp Hale buildings (barracks, gymnasium, field houses, warehouse and powerhouse) left debris scattered throughout approximately 300 acres known as the cantonment, or living area. Only the concrete floor, foundations and some support structures remain on site.
- The buildings were constructed using asbestos containing materials and the demolition resulted in the asbestos containing materials in the form of siding, shingles, floor tiles and other sources remaining on the surface and potential sub-surface of the Cantonment Area.
- Any soil disturbing activities are conducted in accordance with the 2015 Camp Hale Project-Specific Regulated Asbestos Containing Soils (RACS) Management Plan.
- In 2016, EPA conducted a human health risk assessment for Nova Guides ATV rider, recreational atv rider, rock climbers, walking/hikers, road maintenance personnel and campsite rakers. The risk evaluation supported the conclusion that the exposures from outdoor soil disturbances at the Cantonment are likely to be within the EPA's acceptable cancer risk range for recreational visitors and outdoor workers.
- In 2017-2018, the Army Corps of Engineers conducted a Time Critical Removal Action for partial surface and subsurface clearance of RACS due to the high recreational uses in the area and the potential for human exposure.
- In 2019, CDPHE approved the Field Sampling and Analysis Plan for the Remedial Investigation of Asbestos Areas in the Cantonment Area which will continue over a number of years.
- There are currently land use controls in place that the Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers maintain in the form of barricades and warning signs to keep the public out of areas that still need to be cleaned up.
- The Administrative Record is the collection of documents the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses to make project-related decisions.
- The record for the Camp Hale Project is maintained throughout the life of the project and is available at the following locations:
Lake County Public Library
1115 Harrison Ave.
Leadville, CO 80461
10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 1-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday
U.S. Forest Service, Minturn Office
24747 U.S. Highway 24
P.O. Box 190
Minturn, CO 81645
8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday