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Sunday, August 9, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Outdoors blog

Despite fires, Chelan-Okanogan region open for recreation

The dramatic North Cascades are seen from an overlook on state Highway 20 at Washington Pass. (Mike Prager)
The dramatic North Cascades are seen from an overlook on state Highway 20 at Washington Pass. (Mike Prager)

Large areas of the Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest and routes into the North Cascades remain open to recreation despite the wildfires that have burned more than 250,000 acres in northcentral Washington since mid-July.

  • Salmon fishing is luring anglers to the Columbia River in the scorched Pateros-Brewster area.
  • The North Cascades Highway is ushering tourists and hikers into prized destinations in North Cascades National Park.
  • Most trails in the Alpine Lakes, Pasayten and Glacier Peaks wilderness areas are unaffected by fires or even smoke.

 “Fires have burned across thousands of acres of this forest, and firefighters are still working to control some difficult fires in Okanogan, Chelan, and Kittitas Counties,” said Mike Balboni, Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest Supervisor.  “But this is a very large National Forest, and several of our districts have been spared large fires so far this season,” he said.

Recreation still is in full swing on the Tonasket, Chelan, Cle Elum, and Naches Ranger Districts, he noted.  Even the Methow Valley and Wenatchee River Ranger Districts, which have been dealing with some very large wildfires, still offer recreation opportunity.  The exception is the Entiat Ranger district, which is mostly blanketed with fire area closures and has all its campgrounds shut down.

Although much of the Methow Valley Ranger District is closed, the Highway 20 corridor west of Winthrop and the Forest Service campgrounds and trails in it are open to recreation. 

Businesses in Winthrop and Twisp are in the middle of the summer tourism season.

Lake Chelan and most of the forest and trails around it still are open to recreation, as are Lake Wenatchee and the White River and Chiwawa River drainages.

In Chelan County, Leavenworth and Chelan have occasionally been impacted by smoke from fires, but merchants in both communities are open for business.

  • The latest information on wildfires and public safety closures is available online at the forest web site.

“There is a forest-wide ban on campfires,” Balboni noted.  “With such dry conditions and so many wildfires, we simply can’t take a chance on any human-caused fires.”

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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