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Corps closes Columbia campgrounds early; campers irked

PUBLIC LANDS — Citing budget cuts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed several camgrounds on the Columbia River on Tuesday — weeks earlier than normal.

The move surprised campers as they were evicted on Tuesday in picture-perfect weather for being in a campsite with their families.

Read the Tri-City Herald story.

See a list of Walla Walla District recreation sites and closure announcements.

It probably didn't help the Walla Walla District's budget last week as crews had to clean up trash from 3,000 partiers at the corps' Illia Dunes recreation site on the Snake River.

With bear spray in pack, woman suffers bites from grizzly

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS —  The recent story of a bear protecting its cubs in the presense of humans calls for a review of basic procedures for walking in bear country:

  1. Bear spray is an effective deterrent to bear attacks.
  2. Bear spray is useless if not immediately accessible when a bear is encountered.

In Montana and Idaho, grizzlies are especially active this time of year looking for berries to put on fat for the winter, as displayed in the photo above snapped last week by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Hikers and especially stealthy hunters, such as archers, should be prepared for bear encounters during fall.

See a video on using bear spray effectively

See more tips for especially for hunting and fishing in bear country.

Fire restrictions loom for Labor Day weekend campers, hunters

PUBLIC LANDS — Fire danger as well as still-burning wild fires will be a major factor for some campers and hunters heading for recreation areas in Idaho, Montana and Washington during Labor Day weekend.   

Smoking, campfires and use of chain saws are restricted on most state and federal lands to prevent more fires. Access roads and trails to some areas are closed because of existing fires, notably in Montana and central Idaho.

For example, the Selway River Trail, popular with hikers and hunters in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, is closed this week as fire crews clear timber falling on the route in the Moose Creek District.

No major fires are listed on the Colville or Idaho Panhandle National Forests, but fire restrictions are in place.

Despite cooler temperatures, fire danger continues to be rated extreme in much of the region, said Joani Bosworth, spokeswoman for the Umatilla National Forest. 

National forest websites are the best all-hours sources for updates on fire-related restrictions.

Websites with updates on fires and restrictions include:




Party trash forces Corps to close Snake recreation area

PUBLIC LANDS — A popular recreation area along the Snake River southwest of Pullman will not be open for Labor Day because it was trashed last weekend by hard-partying visitors.

Apparently school's in session at WSU.

The Corps of Engineers closed the Illia Dunes after more than 3,000 visitors left broken bottles and beer cans on the beach and littered parking lots with trash, creating health and safety hazards.

The corps says it doesn’t have the resources for such a big cleanup job if visitors can’t pick up after themselves.

The dunes are a popular recreation site with sandy beaches on the south shore of the Snake River about three miles downstream of Lower Granite Lock and Dam

“Was there a dinosaur out there?”

Having an astonishing variety of outdoors skills is one way.

Being the one person who never complains is another.

But when it comes to making yourself a legend during a camping trip, there's nothing quite like epic snoring. 

Perseid meteor shower delights area campers

SKY WATCHING — Other than a bit of lingering haze from the region's wildfires, the weekend provided picture perfect conditions for watching the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower.

I'm impressed at how many of my Facebook friends were out camping in wild places to get the most from the event. (See photo above by Blake Sommers/Outdoor Flip Photography, who was camped at Revett Lake near Thompson Pass at the Montana-Idaho Border — Hike 24 in 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.)

The higher the elevation and the farther you are from city lights, the better the viewing.

When our kids were young, our family had a tradition of renting one of the area's fire lookouts or at least camping near one for the Perseid event. We'd roll out our sleeping pads on the lookout catwalk and watch the "shooting stars" until we faded away to sleep.

This year, near the Cabinet Mountains Widlerness, I was graced with a view of a meteor entering the earth's atmosphere with a streaming tail of orange that raced directly up the Clark Fork River. It was better than the Olympics closing ceremony.

Here are more photos of the Perseid Meteor Shower from Universe Today readers around the world.

Colville Forest releases revised South End motorized use plan

FORESTS – The Colville National Forest is seeking comments on a revised proposal to regulate dispersed camping and designate and expand roads and trails open to motorized recreation.

Comments are due by the end of August on the South End Project scoping notice and plans for the Tacoma, Chewelah and Calispell drainages).

  • See the revised proposals in the document attached to this post.

The original plan was appealed last winter by conservation groups.

The project goals include designating an expanded system of routes for motor vehicle use.


Water OK at Pioneer Park Campground near Newport

CAMPING – The drinking water supply has been tested and OKed at Pioneer Park Campground near Newport, Colville National Forest officials said today.

The water system had been shut down for a week after reports of possible contamination.  

Volunteers removing illegal camp at Mount Spokane

STATE PARKS — The Spokane Mountaineers are organizing volunteers to remove an illegal camp apparently established by skiers in a pristine forest on the west side of Mount Spokane State Park.

The illegal campers had installed a stove and cut down trees during the winter.

E. coli contamination found at Pioneer Park Campground near Newport

CAMPING — E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria was discovered Aug. 4 in the drinking water at the Pioneer Park Campground in Pend Oreille County.

Today Colville National Forest officials said the Newport Ranger District had notified guests who recently stayed at the campground if contact information was available.

No reports of illness had been received, they said. 

While the campground three miles from Newport remains open, the drinking water system has been shut down while the Forest Service investigates the source of contamination.

Info: Contact the Newport Ranger District (509) 447-7300.

Colville forest crews still clearing storm blowdowns

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NATIONAL FORESTS — Crews have reopened all the primary roads on the Colville National Forest since a July 20 storm leveled trees on roughly 4,000 acres of the 1.1 million-acre forest.  Most of the damage was on the Republic Ranger District.

Some of the seconary roads and trails are still plugged with trees that were toppled by the storm — or weakened so much that they're still falling.

Crews have cleared all secondary roads listed as "open" on the Colville National Forest Interactive Motor Interactive  Vehicle Use Map, said Franklin Pemberton, forest spokesman.  If a road was useable this summer before the storm but not officially designated as "open" to motorized use, crews will not be dispatched to cut out the blowdowns, he said.

"While all roads that were passible prior to the storm event have been cleared of down trees, it is important to note that there are roads that were washed out do to storm activity prior to this event that have not been repaired," he said.

A list of those roads can be found on the Colville National Forest Web site under Conditions: Road Report

All trailheads are open, but trails can still have trees down across them and potentially weakened trees that could come down.  More trees have fallen on some trails that have been cut out, he said.

"If you're a mountain biker or equestrian headed out on the trails,  you should bring a saw," he said.

Ten Mile Campground south of Republic (see photos above) remains closed and the Empire Lake dispersed campsites are also closed.

Updates: Republic Ranger District Office, (509) 775-7400.

Storm nearly dealt Cheney family a death blow at campsite

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CAMPING — The best part of this camping trip?   Nobody was killed.

A Cheney family survived a harrowing evening during the storm that ravaged Ferry County on July 20, 2012.

See their photos above.

See a story about the storm and brief surge of hurricane-force winds swept through the region

Some Colville Forest area still inaccessible from storm

NATIONAL FORESTS — A week after a storm and brief surge of hurricane-force winds swept through the region, areas around Priest Lake and especially the Colville National Forest are still clogged with downed trees.

The good news is that powerline crews, government agencies and private citizens have been working their butts off with chain saws and equipment to make progress.  The bad news is that some areas are a big mess and still unaccessible.

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area reports all campgrounds and facilities are open.  Priest Lake Range Station reported that some trails got "hammered" with blowdowns, but no specific reports were available. Forest trail crews and volunteers had just finished a logging out 192 miles of trails on the Priest Lake District the week before the storm struck, killing a man in his pickup in the Priest Lake area.

Generally, the Panhandle National Forests came out of the dangerous storm fairly well, said Jason Kirchner, forest spokesman in Coeur d'Alene.

But the Colville Forest's Republic Ranger District and portions of the Collville Indian Reservation, where assistance is still being requested, are a different story.

Here's the word from Colville Forest spokesman Franklin Pemberton:

The impact to recreation specific to the Republic R.D. from this event is severe. 

Crews have made significant progress on getting all of the main forest service (FS) roads open and "passible".  All of the main FS roads are passible for a full-size pickup truck, but motorhomes, camp trailers and horse trailers are not recommended.  Work continues to open all of the main FS roads completely to larger size vehicles such as ambulances and fire engines and is expected to be completed by this Friday.  Many secondary FS roads remain blocked by down timber and will be opened once all the main roads are completed.

Many roads to trailheads remain blocked and trail conditions are being reported as being blocked by down timber.  All campgrounds are open with the exception of Ten Mile Campground.  Crews will continue to work to open secondary roads that lead to recreation sites and trailheads, but there is no estimate of when this work will be completed.

Forest officials are still recommending that visitors to the Republic R.D. stay in the developed campgrounds and limit their travel on the forest as much as possible.

Contact the Republic Ranger District Office, (509) 775-7400 for specific recreation questions.

Hikers: check conditions before you head out

TRAILS — Heavy rain and lingering snow have created a few obstacles for hikers, campers and other heading into the backcountry this weekend. Best to check with Forest Service offices today to make sure your destination is reachable.

For example:

  • Hikers headed to Iron Mountain area east of Bonners Ferry will have to walk an extra half-mile to the trailhead because of a washout on Boulder Creek Road. The washout and lingering snow have kept trail crews from the area.
  • Glacier National Park’s Going to the Sun Road was blocked for three days this week after a dozen or so mudslides buried sections of the popular road for miles. It’s open again today. However, the park service says more bad weather is expected on Friday, with a flash flood watch issued for the park from noon to midnight. Heavy lightning, hail and wind up to 60 mph is expected.

Lingering snow has prevented trail clearing in some areas.

  • Idaho Panhandle crews have just begun logging out the Long Canyon area in the Selkirk Mountains northwest of Bonners Ferry.  But the Parker Ridge area above is still covered with snow.

Priest Lake: All 192 miles of trails on the district have been logged out, getting a big boost from the Back Country Horsemen, who cleared out 50 miles of trails in their annual Memorial Day campout work party.

Huckleberries are ripe in some low to mid elevations.

Free backpack cooking clinic Thursday at REI

BACKPACKING – Backpackers who are tired of Ramen and balk at plain instant oatmeal might benefit from the free clinc on backpack cooking basics Thursday (July 19), 7 p.m., at REI in Spokane.

Topics to be covered include recipies as well as preserving, preparing packing and cooking tasty meals that won’t weight you down.

Camp cooking clinic Thursday at REI

CAMPING – A free clinic in basic camp cooking will be offered Thursday (July 12), 7 p.m., at REI in Spokane.

Bear aware: Tips for camping in bear country

WILDLIFE — The summer camping season is kicking into high gear, putting more people out among wildlife, including bears.

The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project offers basic tips to help campers avoid attracting bears, which can be dangerous to people and destructive to their camping gear.

Worse, a bear that finds value — notably food — in raiding camps almost surely will become a repeat offender that ultimately will have to be killed.

Click "continue reading" to refresh your memory on tips that come from years of case studies:

Sea Kayak Adventures offers discount for orca trips at Johnstone Strait

ADVENTURE TRAVEL  – $200 discounts are being offered for guided six-day sea kayaking trips geared to paddling with orcas off Vancouver Island.

Nancy Mertz, co-owner of Couer-d Alene-based Sea Kayak Adventures, said they have a few slots they’re trying to fill for camping excursions in the famous killer whale waters of Johnstone Strait.

Info: 800-616-1943 or www.seakayakadventures.com.

My wife and I joined one of these groups a few years ago and the exprience of paddling with orcas ranks among the most exciting in our repertoie.

See my short narrated video presentation on the sea kayaking trip to Johnstone Strait above.

Roosevelt headed to full pool by by July 4

RESERVOIRS — The level of Lake Roosevelt is about 1284 on June 22.

The lake is continuing to fill and spill is occurring over the drum gates at Grand Coulee Dam. The peak of the spring runoff is expected in the next two weeks. In addition, increased rainfall has resulted in high inflows into Lake Roosevelt. The predicted amount of rise in lake level is anticipated to be approximately 1 foot per day over the next week. The level of the lake is expected to be 1288 by June 30. The lake is expected to continue to rise .5-.75 feet per day, reaching the full pool elevation of 1290 on July 4.

Be cautious while recreating on Lake Roosevelt over the 4th of July holiday as the lake level will rise and a limited amount of beach will be available around the lake. Shoreline campers are advised to camp well away from the water’s edge.

For a daily lake level forecast call 1-800-824-4916. This forecast is updated at 3 p.m. each day.

Two more days in Buck Knives employee pricing

OUTDOOR GEAR — In case you missed the ad in today's paper, Buck Knives is offering employee pricing on the excellent blades produced in the Post Falls factory through Friday.

Timing considerations: 

  • Fathers Day is Sunday.
  • Camping season is underway.
  • Hunting season is around the corner.

Coeur d’Alene River campgrounds closed for repairs

Kit Price and Devils Elbow Campgrounds are temporarily closed to the public while construction crews work to improve the campground water systems and repave roads, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests announced today.

The popular campgrounds on the North Fork of the Cour d’Alene River about 40 miles north of I-90 at Kingston are scheduled to reopen in July.

Info: Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District: Fernan (208) 664-2318 or Smelterville (208) 783-2363.

National Parks offer free admission June 9

PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees to celebrate Get Outdoors Day on June 9.

The Park Service is waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2012.

Offering  free admission to national parks and other federal lands has been featured the past three years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.

Bear aware: Tips for camping in bear country

WILDLIFE — The summer camping season is kicking into high gear, putting more people out among wildlife, including bears.

The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project offers basic tips to help campers avoid attracting bears, which can be dangerous to people and destructive to their camping gear. 

Worse, a bear that finds value — notably food — in raiding camps almost surely will become a repeat offender that ultimately will have to be killed.

Click "continue reading" to refresh your memory on tips that come from years of case studies: 

Spokane meetings focus on future of state parks

PARKS — Washington State Parks officials have set meetings in Spokane to discuss potentially sweeping changes in management of facilities at Riverside and Mount Spokane.

The meetings will be at Spokane Public Library Shadle Branch, 2111 W. Wellesley Ave. as follows:

Similar meetings across the state will gather public opinion on whether the state parks system would be operated as a private enterprise based on profits generated at the sites or as a public conservation asset.

Other options include turning over more parks to local communities to operate as a non-profit attractions, officials said.

Officials also are asking the public to help them rank the top features of their state parks and what needs improvement, said Virginia Painter, parks spokeswoman in Olympia.

The cash-strapped parks system is trying to make a five-year management plan. The Washington Legislature had voted to wean the parks from all state general funding in the next few years.

Rangers and other staff positions at Riverside and Mount Spokane state parks were cut by 40 percent in Jaunary.

Click here for information about the planning effort and making comments.

Bumper Dumper offers relief with no hitches

CAMPING — Answer the call of nature on your next backcountry drive with the Bumper Dumper, a toilet seat attached to a steel frame that requires only a trailer hitch receiver to turn the back of your vehicle into a veritable port-a-potty making the whole “roughing it” experience a cruise in the park.

Privacy?  It's a free world!