The U.S. Forest Service has begun restoring access to developed recreational sites that were temporarily closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, most of the Pacific Northwest region national forests will begin to restore access to recreation sites, Forest Service roads, trails and dispersed areas.
“Our recreation landscape is interconnected, and changes to access will have an impact across many jurisdictions. Decisions about what sites to reopen, and when, involve careful consideration of potential effects on nearby communities,” Regional Forester for the Pacific Northwest Region of the USDA Forest Service Glenn Casamassa said in a press release statement. “A deliberate process and a gradual transition will also allow us to reopen individual locations while prioritizing the safety of our employees and volunteers.”
Hunting and fishing are allowed in undeveloped areas in accordance with state law and if the area is not affected by a closure order.
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area — a magnet for recreation-seekers from the nearby Portland-Vancouver metro area and beyond — will remain closed to most hiking trails, parks and waterfalls to continue to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Gifford Pinchot National Forest will restore access to developed day-use and trailhead sites. Forest Roads 81, 83, and 90 will be reopened for general public use. Campgrounds, the Lower Falls Recreation Area, the Ape Cave Interpretive Site and Forest Road 8303 leading to the site, and the Johnston Ridge Observatory will remain gated and closed at milepost 45.0 near Coldwater Lake.
Deschutes National Forest will open most developed day-use recreation sites and boat ramps but all campgrounds remain closed. Dispersed camping is still allowed. Some sites that are currently closed either still have significant snow or have hazard trees that need to be addressed for public safety.
“I am happy to share that we are opening many of our boat launches and trailheads that provide access to the landscape and recreation we all enjoy so much,” Forest Supervisor Holly Jewkes said in a press release statement.
Restrooms will not be regularly maintained or cleaned, and park rangers are asking visitors to be as self-sufficient as possible and pack out what they pack in.
“We are working to open some campgrounds in the forest the first weekend in June. We will continue to open more campgrounds as safety issues are addressed and services can be provided,” Jewkes said.
Mount Hood National Forest developed recreational sites such as trailheads, campgrounds, boat ramps, picnic areas, off-highway vehicle areas remain closed for now.
Willamette National Forest will reopen most trailheads, boat launches and developed recreation sites will be accessible with limited access. Terwilliger Hot Springs and Fall Creek Trail will remain closed.
Siuslaw National Forest will reopen many developed recreational sites with some exceptions. Most national forest boat ramps, day use sites and trailheads, and some off-highway vehicle staging areas on the Oregon Dunes, will be available for day use with limited or no services. Visitors are strongly encouraged to follow state and local guidelines for physical distancing and staying close to home.
“We understand how important outdoor recreation is to our local economies and to Oregonians who rely on public lands for their physical, mental, and spiritual health,” acting forest supervisor Donna Mickley said in a press release statement. “Since we’re not yet able to provide the level of service at recreation sites that visitors may be accustomed to, we’re asking everyone to please protect and respect their public lands, as well as other visitors, by packing out all of their waste.
”Some popular developed recreation sites that remain closed are all Sand Lake Recreation Area, all campgrounds and sand camps, Drift Creek Falls Trail and Trailhead, Horsfall and Siltcoos corridors, including recreation sites along the corridors.
Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest will restore access to most day-use sites but no access to campgrounds.
Ochoco National Forest & Crooked River National Grassland will restore access to three campgrounds, all trailheads and off-highway vehicle staging areas on Friday. The three campgrounds that will reopen are Skull Hollow Campground, Haystack Reservoir Campground and Day Use, and Walton Lake Campground.
Visitors should expect limited services as the Forest Service continues to develop systems and procedures to provide for employee and public safety.
The service is currently working on plans to reopen more campgrounds in the coming weeks as time and resources allow.
The Ochoco Ranger Station and the Cold Springs Guard Station cabin rentals will remain closed initially.
Umatilla National Forest will restore access to trailheads, Snow-Parks, boat ramps and day-use areas. Forest roads, trails, and general forest lands are also still open for public use. Umatilla National Forest will not be re-opening developed campgrounds and cabin rentals will remain closed.
As sites continue to reopen some services may not be available, including trash collection.
Visitors will find several roads and trails are closed in areas with significant flood damage. Closure signs will be posted. Many forest roads are still not accessible due to mud, snow or snow drifts. In addition, traveling on thawing, saturated, and muddy roads can result in resource damage and serious safety concerns, especially if visitors are unprepared. Forest conditions are dynamic this time of year and likely to change throughout the day and week.