Beaver Creek Campground at the northwest end of Priest Lake has been closed today and visitors are being evacuated after Forest Service inspectors discovered more than 40 hazardous trees that must be removed for visitor safety.
The Beaver Creek boat launch and canoe portage areas northeast of Nordman are outside of the campground and will remain open, officials said, but the campground closure will continue through one of the most popular camping weekends of the year.
The inspections were ordered after a Sandpoint man was killed by a 200-foot-tall tree that fell on his tent in Stagger Inn Campground during a severe thunderstorm on Sunday night.
Kyle L. Garrett, 48, was killed by the uprooted tree northwest of Priest Lake. A 52-year-old woman was injured and treated for non-life threatening injuries.
Forest Service officials and local law enforcement are evacuating the Beaver Creek Campground today and suggesting alternate camping sites, said Jason Kirchner, Idaho Panhandle National Forests spokesman in Coeur d’Alene.
Campers with reservations through the Labor Day holiday weekend will be notified by email and given a refund for their advance fees through a federal reservation website, he said.
“Closing a popular campground before a holiday weekend is a terribly difficult decision but, in this case there are too many dangerous trees to remove before the weekend, so closure is our only option to ensure a safe environment,” said Mary Farnsworth, forest supervisor.
Crews have been assessing the conditions of developed recreation sites throughout the Idaho Panhandle National Forest since Monday, Kirchner said. In many sites crews have already identified and removed dozens of hazardous trees from campgrounds, picnic areas and trailheads.
Beaver Creek Campground, which is northeast of Nordman, is the only site where danger is extensive enough to require a temporary closure for tree removal, he said.
However, a handful of smaller recreation sites are still being assessed today.
For the latest status of the ongoing storm damage assessment visit Inciweb.org.
A number of alternate campgrounds are available in the Priest Lake area, including Outlet Campground, Luby Bay Campground, Reeder Bay Campground and Osprey Campground. These sites all include “first come, first served” sites and reservation sites.
Check Recreation.gov for reservations and status of these and other Forest Service campgrounds or call (877) 444-6777.