GALICE — The 50-mile Bear Camp Road to the coast is now open, thanks to an early snow melt.
The road was officially opened Friday after road crews completed snow-drift removal, according to Paul Galloway, spokesman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
For information on Bear Camp Road and road status, call the Gold Beach Ranger Station at 541-247-3600 and the Wild Rivers Ranger Station at 541-471-6500 or at 541-592-4000.
The popular route for recreational travelers between Galice and Agness isn't usually open until Memorial Day weekend.
"This is about a week before we originally anticipated it would be open," he said. "Most of the snow fell early in the season. And we've have had a spate of warm weather this spring. The sun helped us out a lot."
So did a construction firm which needed to move a road grader from the Rogue Valley to Gold Beach, he said, noting the company used the grader to remove snow from the road.
"We didn't have any of the large slides or other impediments in the road this year as we have had in past years," he said.
The windy mountain road, which provides the shortest motor route between Grants Pass and Gold Beach, is normally open from Memorial Day through the end of October.
About 37 miles of the road lies within national forest boundaries. Another 12 miles is on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Medford District.
The route is heavily used by recreational drivers and as a shuttle route by those floating the white water on the Wild and Scenic stretch of the Rogue River.
The Memorial Day weekend is the traditional beginning of the recreation season that stretches into the fall until snow closes the road.
The road is not maintained from early November to Memorial Day weekend.
In past years, several people attempting to take the route during its annual closure have run into trouble. In December 2006, James Kim of San Francisco died of exposure while seeking help for his family after their car bogged down in the snow. The Kims apparently were unaware the road is closed in winter and not a main highway.
Since then, the Forest Service and the BLM have added a half-dozen large warning signs, two informational kiosks and a series of mile markers along the route to help drivers unfamiliar with the mountain road.
The narrow road is not recommended for vehicles pulling travel trailers, motor homes or oversized vehicles, Galloway said.
"That road gets a lot of use so folks need to be very careful when driving on it," he said.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.