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Sports >  Outdoors

Idaho forests extend closures, cancel rafting reservations

Anglers float down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River on Aug. 31, 2018. (Eli Francovich / The Spokesman-Review)
Anglers float down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River on Aug. 31, 2018. (Eli Francovich / The Spokesman-Review)
By Nicole Blanchard The Idaho Statesman

As Idaho prepares to reopen some businesses and lift its coronavirus-related stay-home order, some federal agencies are tightening or extending restrictions related to the pandemic.

In a news release last week, the U.S. Forest Service announced it would extend some closures in the Salmon-Challis National Forest and cancel permits to float the Salmon River and Middle Fork of the Salmon through mid-May. Any “developed recreation sites,” including campsites and day-use sites, are closed through May 15, while “Forest Trail No. 6232, the Warm Springs Trail and the area within 250 yards from the center of Gold Bug Hot Springs” will be closed through the end of May.

Officials said anyone with a float permit will receive an email notification that their permit has been canceled, as well as a refund of any fees. Permits are required year-round to float the Salmon River and Middle Fork of the Salmon, although the primary float season is from June to September.

Forest Service officials said the continued closures are meant to prevent the spread of coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.

“We have visitors that want to enjoy the forest, but many areas are drawing more people than social distancing guidelines recommend,” said Chuck Mark, Salmon-Challis National Forest supervisor, in the news release. “As spring progresses, many of these recreation sites are beginning to become accessible. We will continue to monitor the situation closely. The forest is developing a plan to phase reopening some sites when conditions allow.”

Similarly, the Boise National Forest announced Friday that it would extend closures at campgrounds, hot springs and trailheads through June 30 due to the pandemic. The agency had previously announced that many popular campgrounds near Boise, including Cottonwood, Sage Hen and Peace Valley, would be closed through the end of June, but its early April closure of hot springs had no initial expiration date.

A list of all affected Boise National Forest sites can be found online at

The Forest Service Intermountain Region, which includes all Idaho national forests, announced Wednesday that it is limiting outdoor recreation groups to 10 people or fewer. No end date was given for the restriction.

“We greatly value the opportunity for people to use their public lands, and we fully recognize the connection people have with national forests,” said Dave Rosenkrance, deputy regional forester, in a news release. “Our intent in issuing this group size order is not to reduce recreation opportunities, but in fact, this may allow us to open some sites that had been closed due to COVID‐19, while ensuring the safety of our employees and the public.”

Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced restrictions at Lucky Peak Dam. The Corps said fires and camping are prohibited and boats are required to be docked at a marina or out of the water between sunset and sunrise until further notice. According to the Corps’ news release, the restrictions were “made in response to public safety and resource protection concerns,” though it’s not clear if they are related to coronavirus.

Conversely, Idaho Power said Tuesday it would reopen some of its boat launches at Hells Canyon, Swan Falls, C.J. Strike Dam and Hagerman.

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