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Break out the s’mores: Forest Service campgrounds open for Memorial Day weekend

Forest Service campgrounds open for Memorial Day weekend
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneRon Rittenhouse of Hillsboro looks for birds from his RV site along the edge Applegate Lake at Hart-Tish Park Thursday afternoon.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest will open dozens of campgrounds for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Forest Service officials are encouraging people to have fun, but to stay aware of potential dangers when camping, hiking, biking or playing in the water.

With late-season snowfall this year, expect lingering snow at recreation sites and on trails at higher elevations. Trees in wildfire burn scars are still falling under the heavy snow loads, and snow damage may be present in some locations, the Forest Service cautioned.

Recent snow and rainfall have resulted in unusually swollen rivers and streams. Where rivers and lakes are fed by snowmelt, the water is exceptionally cold, agency officials said.

Logs and debris washed into rivers can strike swimmers and boaters, or create obstructions that can trap people in dangerous currents, the Forest Service said.

When taking part in water recreation, including paddleboarding and rafting, arrive prepared with knowledge about potential hazards. Wear appropriate cold-water gear and use a personal flotation device that is well-fitted to your body and appropriate for your sport.

Spring rain and late snowfall has delayed the opening of some campgrounds, especially at higher elevations. Deep mud and impassable snow drifts have limited access and delayed seasonal maintenance and cleanup at some locations.

While many campgrounds are open, including some with first-come, first-served camping opportunities, holiday weekends usually are extremely busy. Expect competition for campsites at the most popular spots.

Before planning your trip, visit the relevant national forest’s website or contact the local ranger district to find out what’s closed and what’s expected to be open. If you plan to camp without a reservation, make sure you have a backup plan if your preferred site is unavailable.

To check openings and access on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/rogue-siskiyou.

Several campgrounds in the High Cascades Ranger District in the Prospect and Butte Falls areas will remain closed due in part to a pending appeal over who gets to run the campgrounds.

Jackson County government was the winning bidder to run many of the campgrounds for the U.S. Forest Service, which for decades has hired outside businesses to run its most popular campgrounds. Rogue Recreation, which is owned by a Nevada-based company, had been running the campgrounds.

Rogue Recreation appealed the Forest Service’s decision to award the campground contract to Jackson County, putting the campgrounds in limbo.

Forest Service workers and volunteer hosts have teamed up to open four popular sites this weekend in the High Cascades Ranger District: Union Creek, Farewell Bend, Fish Lake and Doe Point campgrounds, the agency announced this week.

“We appreciate our employees and volunteers helping us out,” said Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest spokeswoman Virginia Gibbons. “We’re focusing on those four because they’re the most popular.”

Union Creek and Farewell Bend campgrounds will have potable water and other services, but campers will have to bring water to Fish Lake and Doe Point campgrounds, she said.

People who already booked reservations for those four sites will receive an email letting them know the campgrounds have become available. The Forest Service isn’t taking new reservations for disputed campgrounds, Gibbons said.

She said the Forest Service doesn’t know how long the dispute over who runs the campgrounds will take to resolve.

In the meantime, dozens of other Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest campgrounds are opening for the long Memorial Day weekend. People can also enjoy dispersed camping, in which they pitch a tent on Forest Service land outside of a campground.

“You won’t have the amenities. You’ll be out there roughing it. You’ll have to carry in what you need and pack out your trash,” Gibbons said of dispersed camping.

Always put out campfires thoroughly. At campgrounds, be considerate of others by limiting noise and keeping pets under control, Gibbons said.

“A lot of people are looking to get out on public lands. Have basic courtesy when using these special places,” she said.

The Siskiyou Mountain Ranger District covering the Ashland and Applegate areas has a long list of campgrounds open. The public should be aware the Siskiyou Crest Loop has a snow drift at McDonald Basin that prevents visitors from driving Forest Service Road 20 from Mount Ashland to Upper Applegate Road.

Open campsites are Applegate Lake, the Applegate River, Carberry, Glade Creek, Harr Point, Hart-Tish, Jackson, Squaw Lakes, Tipsu Tyee, Watkins, Wrangle (may be inaccessible due to snow), Beaver-Sulphur Group Camp and Flumet Flat Group Camp.

Open campsites in the Wild Rivers Ranger District in the Grants Pass and Cave Junction area are Little Falls, Josephine, Sixmile, River Bench, Store Gulch, Echo Beach, Cedar Camp, Spalding Pond, Sam Brown, Sam Brown Horse, Grayback and Chinquapin Group Campground. Bolan remains closed in the aftermath of the Slater wildfire.

Open campsites in the Gold Beach Ranger District near the Oregon Coast are Ludlum, Miller Bar, Redwood Bar, Nook Bar, South Fork, Lobster Creek, Quosatana and Foster Bar.

Open campsites in the Powers Ranger District are Myrtle Grove, Sru Lake, Buck Lake, Eden Valley, Sunshine Bar, Butler Bar, Laird Lake, Daphne Grove, Island and Rock Creek.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.