‘Green Friday’ brings free fishing free state parks, waterfalls, tree cutting
If football and turkey are not your idea of a good time, and the outdoors beckons far stronger than the TV screen, the weekend after Thanksgiving brings lots of opportunities.
The annual “Green Friday” celebrations mean free fishing and entry to Oregon’s state parks, while the arrival of Christmas tree hunting season means it’s time to sharpen your handsaw. The return of rain should also make waterfalls a fun place to explore over the holiday weekend.
Here are five adventures and activities to enjoy for Green Friday and into the weekend.
In celebration of Green Friday, Oregonians are allowed to fish, crab or clam for free anywhere in the state without a license or tags on Friday and Saturday.
If you have relatives or friends visiting Oregon, they can fish for free, as well.
Although no licenses or tags are required, all other fishing regulations apply. In other words, you can only keep the normal limit of fish for a given waterway.
For ideas on where to catch fish, check out the recreation report from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In general, beginning anglers can target lakes and ponds stocked with trout — they’re hungry this time of year.
Oregon’s state parks offer free entry Friday at the 24 parks around the state that normally charge a day-use parking fee.
That means places such as Silver Falls, Smith Rock and all the parks along the Oregon Coast will be free to visit.
“We’re proud to promote this tradition and offer Oregonians an alternative to the busiest shopping day of the year,” said Lisa Sumption, director of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
Parking is free year-round at almost all state parks; the waiver applies to the parks that charge $5 daily for parking. Fee parks include popular destinations such as Fort Stevens, Cape Lookout, Champoeg, L.L. Stub Stewart and Milo McIver. A complete list of parks that require day-use parking permits is available at stateparks.oregon.gov.
The fee waiver applies from open to close on Friday, except at Shore Acres State Park, where it expires at 4 p.m. for the Holiday Lights event that runs Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve.
U.S. consumers are expected to pay around $80 to $100 for a Christmas tree this season, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
If that seems pricey, consider paying $5 for a permit and heading into the forest to harvest your own tree. The U.S. Forest Service allows cutting five Christmas trees per household for that modest fee.
The closest place to harvest a tree is Willamette National Forest, east of Salem and Eugene, or Mount Hood National Forest outside Portland. To get started, head to Recreation.gov and type in “Willamette National Forest Christmas Tree Permit.” It’ll bring you to a page where you can buy as many $5 permits as you want, plus get maps for where harvesting trees are legal and what types to target.
Snow is likely to be a factor for those heading to higher elevations, so consider parking at a sno-park.
The best trees, including noble firs, tend to be in the higher elevations around 3,000 to 4,000 feet. One good option is to drive to a place such as Maxwell, Big Springs or Potato Hill sno-parks, which are plowed, and go exploring for a tree. Sno-park permits cost $25 for a full year of winter recreation and can be purchased from the Oregon Department of Transportation or local businesses.
With the rain finally returning, Oregon’s waterfalls should start pumping out normal November power.
A few favorite waterfall hikes this time of year include Silver Falls State Park (east of Salem), McDowell Creek Falls County Park (near Lebanon), Drift Creek Falls (outside Lincoln City) or the countless waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge. My favorite hikes in the Gorge are Wahclella Falls and Eagle Creek Trail to Punchbowl Falls. If the Gorge is too popular, head to remote Niagara Falls between Salem and Lincoln City.
You can also see waterfalls that may or may not be snow covered, with the best option being Salt Creek Falls southeast of Eugene.
You might get drenched, but the Oregon Coast is fun to hike this time of year just because there’s far fewer people out.
There are thousands of places to hike on the Oregon Coast, but a few favorites include the Hobbit Trail (near Florence), Harts Cove (near Lincoln City) or the Cape Trail at Cape Lookout State Park.
Harts Cove Trail, which is open until Dec. 31, does require an adventure to reach since its main access road is out of service.
It’s not quite early enough for the gray whale migrations — where you can spot nature’s majestic animals just off the coast — but you might get lucky and see a spout or two. Gray whale migrations typically ramp up December to January.
Zach Urness covers the outdoors for the Statesman Journal. He is the author of “Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon” and “Hiking Southern Oregon.” He can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or 503-399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.