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Table Rocks, other popular trails now closed

The trails to Upper and Lower Table Rocks near Sams Valley and the Cathedral Hills trails near Grant Pass closed to the public Friday afternoon, the latest recreational losses designed to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Also closed Friday by the Bureau of Land Management were the Grave Creek Trail that accesses the 40-mile trail within the Rogue River’s Wild and Scenic Section, as well as the Dollar Mountain Trail near Grants Pass.

At the Table Rocks, BLM crews were adding signs Friday afternoon saying the Rogue Valley’s signature mesas were off limits to hikers until further notice.

BLM spokesman Kyle Sullivan said physical barriers blocking vehicle access to the parking lots likely will not be in place until Monday.

“But we definitely discourage people from visiting the sites this weekend,” Sullivan said.

Law enforcement officers will be deployed to the two trails — Upper Table Rock off Modoc Road and Lower Table Rock off Wheeler Road — to ensure compliance, Sullivan said.

Violators face citations sporting bails from $150 to $300, Sullivan said.

BLM and The Nature Conservancy, which jointly manage the Table Rocks, have already canceled their popular spring hikes series that was scheduled to begin Saturday. Some hikes in May might be salvaged, BLM said.

The Table Rocks are a staple of the local hiking community, with more than 50,000 user-days recorded on the trails annually.

When BLM and TNC pulled the guided hikes, the entities encouraged people to hike the two trails while practicing social distancing by keeping a minimum of 6 feet apart. But that can be difficult in some places on those trails, which are often framed in poison oak.

It’s the latest hit for outdoors enthusiasts who are trying to follow Gov. Kate Brown’s suggestion of hiking and biking outside. Instead people are being encouraged to stick to their neighborhoods and resist destination hikes that lead to travel and possibly more contact with people.

Jackson County and the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department closed all of its boat ramps along the upper Rogue River earlier this week, though some driftboaters during the ongoing winter steelhead fishing season were using private ramps to launch and take out.

Josephine County so far has resisted closing its boat ramps along the middle Rogue, which is also a popular destination for winter steelhead angling.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has so far not closed fishing and hunting seasons like Washington did earlier this week, ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said. However, Dennehy stressed that anglers should be cognizant of rapidly changing access rules, and said they should stick close to home and remain at least 6 feet from others, as outlined in Brown’s executive order restricting activities to fight the COVID-19 spread.

The Oregon State Marine Board has issued a memo recommending fishing guides not run trips now, saying “it would be difficult for most if not all guide or charter operations to operate with the public aboard” and follow Gov. Brown’s executive order.

Also, the board asserted that travel by guides and their fishing clients would not be considered “essential” travel under Brown’s order.

Also Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed its Takelma boat ramp on Lost Creek Lake, its Rogue ramp at Cole Rivers Hatchery, and its Elk Creek Recreation Area.

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