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Outdoors: What you need to know for the 4th

Thu., July 2, 2009, midnight

Conditions are ripe for heading outdoors during the holiday weekend, but be warned:

Out-of-staters must have their boats inspected as they enter Idaho this year; low-clearance vehicles won’t get up a few forest roads; snow and blowdowns clog some high-elevation trails; and hikers will need extra dough when they park at some popular wilderness trailheads.

Bring cash: Starting this week, trailhead parking fees – $5 a day or $30 a year – are being charged at eight popular trailheads for the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.

The fee requirement was already in place at popular trailheads for the Eagle Cap Wilderness and Hells Canyon recreation area.

Want another option?

Buy a pass: An “annual pass” is the best bargain for anyone planning to visit national parks and/or forests more than a few times this year.

•Northwest Forest Pass, $30 – good at Forest Service areas in Washington and Oregon that charge vehicle fees. Pays for itself in a single six-day backpacking trip to the Eagle Cap, Wenaha-Tucannon or Alpine Lakes wilderness areas, or six trips to the Bead Lake public boat launch in the attempt to hook a burbot.

Note: You don’t need the Northwest Pass if you buy any of the following multiagency passes under the America the Beautiful pass program.

•Interagency Annual Pass, $80 – good for a passenger vehicle load of fun-seekers at most federal sites, this is a deal for anyone planning more than several visits to national parks, forests, BLM or Corps of Engineers areas.

•Interagency Senior Pass, $10 – the best part about aging, this lifetime pass covers people age 62 and older.

•Interagency Access Pass, free – for people with disabilities.

The interagency passes are for sale in Spokane at REI or the Bureau of Land Management office. REI and Wholesale Warehouse (formerly Sportsman’s Warehouse) carry the Northwest Pass.

Border boat check: Watercraft transported into Idaho are required under a new law to stop at an invasive species inspection station.

The location of those stations was just posted ( ) on Wednesday. In north Idaho, the stations are:

•Oldtown weight station on Highway2, milepost 2.

•Farragut State Park.

•Heutter Rest Area off I-90, Milepost 85.

•Post Falls Cabela’s.

Sticker your boat: Also new this year, boats on Idaho waters – even kayaks and canoes – must have an invasive species sticker. Exception: inflatable, non-motorized vessels less than 10 feet long.

The stickers are available at State Parks offices. For convenience, buy online at Print the receipt and carry it in the boat to satisfy the requirement until the sticker arrives in the mail.

No surprise: Every State Park campsite in Idaho is booked for the holiday weekend, officials in Boise said Wednesday.

Call ahead: Access to national forest trails is improving daily, but it’s worth checking ahead.

For example, snow that plugged Trout Creek Road at Hoodoo Pass in the Bitterroots south of Superior two weeks ago is gone. On the other hand, the high divide getting to Roman Nose Lakes in the Idaho Selkirks is free of snow but recommended only for high-clearance vehicles.

Pack River Road also is rough from erosion beyond the Chimney Rock trailhead.

Hikers will find lower Roman Nose Lake clear, but they may still encounter snow going over the high ground to the upper lakes. West Fork Lake remains surrounded by snow.

Because access to the high country is just opening, trail crews have not yet cut out blowdowns on upper trails such as Pyramid and Ball lakes. The Long Canyon trail west of Bonners Ferry has been cleared up 7 miles, but not past the creek crossing.

A hiker out of the Mallard-Larkins area in St. Joe River country last week said there was too much snow – depths of about 5 feet at elevation 6,000 feet – to find the trail from Mallard to Fawn Lake.

A rock slide on Colville National Forest Road 2220 was cleared last week, reopening the main access to Salmo-Priest Wilderness trailheads and Gypsy Meadows.

ATVs restricted: Lightning Creek Road up from the Clark Fork area has a full motorized closure this summer because of contract work, unlike last year when ATVs were allowed to go in.

Heat’s on: Dry weather has ramped up fire danger this week. The Washington Department of Natural Resources announced “high” fire danger ratings for Okanogan, Spokane, Lincoln, Pend Oreille and Fire Districts 1 and 2 in Stevens County. That means all burning is be prohibited and campfires are allowed only in approved campfire rings.

Fireworks are not allowed on any public lands.

Expect to get nailed if you’re in a boat without lifejackets this weekend.

Contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508, or e-mail to

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