The rush to secure the perfect Memorial Day weekend campsite has already begun.
Boaters are in a flurry to get the Idaho’s new Invasive Species Fund sticker, which (as of May 1) is required on all boats longer than 10 feet – including rafts, kayaks and canoes. Only inflatable, non-motorized vessels less than 10 feet long are exempt.
And off-highway vehicle riders are starting to wonder, “Where in the world is it legal to ride ATVs and dirt bikes?”
Here’s a bit of preholiday insight.
For campers: It’s OK to send grandpa and grandma out to set up camp and hold a choice spot until the younger working members of the family show up on Friday.
But Colville National Forest staffers were tracking down people who violated rules by setting up a partial camp Tuesday at Twin Lakes and leaving overnight.
“Technically, abandoning property on the national forest is illegal,” said Franklin Pemberton, forest spokesman.
•The region’s park and forest staffers are working hard this week to get lowland recreation facilities open for the traditional opening of the lowland camping season.
While most campgrounds are already available for use, gates on the most popular campgrounds in the Coeur d’Alene River District will be opened at 8 a.m. on Friday, said Claire Pitner, recreation staffer in Fernan.
•Snow is the main limiting factor, with many of the region’s popular summer camping areas still inaccessible because of snow, especially higher than 3,500 feet.
•Last weekend’s hot weather followed by rain blew out most of the region’s rivers, making them a dream for whitewater rafters and a nightmare for family’s planning to camp streamside with small children.
For boaters: Local whitewater enthusiasts say they’re encountering delays in online orders for Idaho’s Invasive Species Fund sticker. Apparently Idaho State Parks is overwhelmed with last-minute requests before the holiday.
To launch without a hassle this weekend, order online and carry the printed receipt to show officers if you don’t get the sticker in time to fix it on your boat. Costs are $5 for non-motorized vessels, $10 for motorized boats registered in Idaho and $20 for other motorized vessels.
Better yet, buy the sticker at Idaho State Parks offices, which are supposed to have a supply of the stickers starting Friday.
•Washington Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers are planning emphasis patrols this weekend to watch roadways for boats of any size that area heading to area waters without having been cleaned to remove invasive species, such as Eurasian milfoil.
For OHVers: Avoid the chance of ruining your day with a ticket by researching where off-road riding is allowed. If you’re heading to a national forest, pick up a motorized travel management map for the area.
Riding is more restricted this year on the Colville National Forest, which has a limited supply of its 2009 travel maps available in Spokane Valley at the BLM Office, 1103 N. Fancher Rd.
The 2009 map is not yet not posted on the forest Web site. But the 2008 map is there and the differences are minor.
“I’ve already been contacting people who are real ticked at the new rules, and I expect a lot more will be ticked after this weekend,” said Mike Mumford, Colville National Forest enforcement officer.
With the publication of its travel map last fall, the forest adopted the nationwide rule that prohibits OHVs from going anywhere they are not specifically allowed according to the map.
County ordinances also are likely to catch some riders on the Colville:
For example, Pend Oreille County requires OHVers to be 16 years old and licensed to head up the Tacoma Creek Road into the national forest.
However, the Forest Service abides by the more liberal state rule that stipulates only that riders must be 13 and older to ride designated roads independently.
Younger riders can ride Forest Service approved OHV roads while under the direct supervision of a licensed adult 18 years or older
For Cascades travelers: Cayuse Pass, at 4,675 feet, is open on Highway 123 on the east side of Mount Rainier within the national park.
Nearby Chinook Pass, 5,430 feet, on Highway 410 remains closed by snow and may not reopen until after Memorial Day weekend.
For skiers: Silver Mountain plans to reopen two lifts and 17 trails this weekend to let skiers take advantage of a snowpack that, as of Wednesday, was still around 88 inches at Kellogg Peak and 36 inches at mid-mountain. Hours: 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Lift tickets: $25.
Silver’s mountain biking trails likely won’t open until early to mid-June.
For bicyclists: The Route of the Hiawatha rail trail is scheduled to open for the season on May 30. Info: (208) 744-1301; www.ridethehiawatha.com.
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