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Warm weather, big water await Memorial Day campers

Southern Oregonians who have cursed the endless rain and snow of this past winter and spring can finally take advantage of it during this weekend's traditional start of the summer camping season.

The strong snowpack created last winter has regional lakes, rivers and creeks teeming with water as people head to waterside campgrounds from Union Creek to Howard Prairie.  

"It was such a long, dismal winter and spring, but we're getting the better part of it now," Jackson County Parks Manager Steve Lambert said from the county's Howard Prairie Resort. "When people come up, they're seeing a full lake instead of seeing the water 40 feet away from the dock. That makes people smile."

Campers crafty enough to reserve spaces online as early as six months ago will be heading to the hills to enjoy what is shaping into a warm, dry and inviting Memorial Day weekend.

All the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest campgrounds are open, and about two-thirds of the spaces at the most popular ones like the Union Creek Campground are reserved through the weekend, yet some choice spaces remained available Thursday. 

"People forget you can make reservations six months in advance," says Alissa Acosta, owner of Rogue Recreation, the concessionaire that runs the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest campgrounds along the Highway 62 corridor and at Fish Lake.

Those heading Friday to Union Creek and Farewell Bend can try to get a reservation through www.roguerec.com or head to places like Abbott Campground, Whiskey Springs and Fourbit Ford campgrounds, where there are no reserved spaces, Acosta says.

Those headed to the Union Creek area who bring their fishing rods may be pleasantly surprised or bummed out depending upon where they are wetting a line.

With far upper Rogue River flows 30 percent higher than the last high-water spring of 2011, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had to alter where and to what extent it stocked fresh legal-sized rainbow trout Thursday.

ODFW planned to stock 2,000 legal-sized trout Thursday spread out among 11 sites from Prospect to Union Creek, but that complement was dispersed between seven release sites because others were running too swiftly for trout and for fishing, says Dan VanDyke, ODFW's Rogue District fish biologist.

Trout were stocked at the Mill Creek, Union Creek, Farewell Bend and River Bridge campgrounds, as well as Woodruff Bridge, the Mt. Stella Bridge at the junction of Highway 230 and Forest Service Road 6510, and a pullout along Highway 230 between mileposts 9 and 10, VanDyke says.

Many of those sites received more than their normal share of rainbows to make up for the dropped sites, which will be added back once runoff ebbs, VanDyke says.

Water problems of a different kind may surprise some visitors to the Bureau of Land Management's Hyatt Lake Recreation Area campground, where some water pipes that burst last winter have yet to be repaired, BLM spokesman Jim Whittington says.

The campground will open as planned today, but it has no running water, showers or regular toilets in operation, Whittington says. Portable toilets and wash stations will be available, Whittington says. BLM's campground-reservation service, www.recreation.gov, has been offering people with reservations full refunds if they want, he says.

Lambert says the sites with water and electricity are full at the county's campgrounds around Howard Prairie, but some tent spaces were still available Thursday afternoon.

At Diamond Lake in eastern Douglas County, heavy snow has kept the road around the lake inaccessible, as well as the lake's South Boat Ramp and adjacent campgrounds, according to the Umpqua National Forest. However, the north portion of the Diamond Lake Campground was scheduled to be open Friday, a forest spokeswoman says.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtfribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

High water awaits campers at Union Creek for Memorial Day weekend. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]