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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

What to know as the unofficial start of summer arrives

Wildflowers stand out along the Alta Vista Trail with views of the Tatoosh Range in Mount Rainier National Park in July.  (Courtesy of Mount Rainier National Park)

Even when the weather is uncooperative and unpredictable, Memorial Day weekend feels like the beginning of summer, a spot on the calendar that fuels an irrepressible desire to go outside and do something.

Campgrounds beckon. So do our national parks. Saturday will be the opening day of fishing for some area rivers and streams. Hiking and biking trails are getting into better shape, though recent rains may mean some remain a little muddy.

There’s plenty to do. The only question is where to go.

Campers would have been better off planning this weekend months in advance by booking their favorite sites online, but not all hope is lost.

The Bureau of Land Management’s campgrounds in Idaho are mostly first-come, first-served, with the exception of the Huckleberry campground on the St. Joe River. Washington State Parks has started offering same-day reservations at many of its parks, including Riverside. And even some of the most coveted Forest Service campgrounds in the region may have some sites available for those who drive up hoping to find a spot.

Most campgrounds on the Colville, Idaho Panhandle and Nez Perce-Clearwater national forests are open, and some of them will have a new look.

The Shadowy St. Joe campground on the St. Joe River will reopen this weekend after being closed last year for renovations, said Patrick Lair, a Forest Service spokesman. Upgrades included new toilets, fire rings and picnic tables, along with accessibility improvements and running electricity throughout the campground.

Some campgrounds will be closed this season, including the Green Bay Campground near Sandpoint. On the Colville National Forest, the Browns Lake campground is closed until further notice, and the Cresent Lake and Little Twin Lakes campgrounds may not open this weekend because of hazard tree removal.

Dispersed camping is another option. In a news release, the Idaho Panhandle National Forest recommended that people looking for dispersed sites try to use ones that already exist, and that they keep their distance from developed sites like trailheads.

Lair added that people driving forest roads should be mindful of conditions, as some of the roads could be muddy.

“We ask that people don’t go tearing through muddy patches,” Lair said.

It’s a big weekend for garnet hunters, too. The Emerald Creek Garnet Area, near Clarkia, Idaho, opens for the season on Friday. Visitors can search for star garnets, a type of crystal found only at Emerald Creek and in India.

The site is open Friday through Monday by reservation only. Reservations can be made online at

Also on Friday, the Route of the Hiawatha opens to cyclists Friday. Construction crews will be working on the tunnels this summer, but the work is expected to happen at night and shouldn’t disrupt use of the trail.

Construction work on Interstate 90 will add a wrinkle, however. The Taft exit at mile marker 5 will be closed, so people will have to use the Saltese exit (No. 10) and backtrack to the trail.

If your grand plans involve a trip to Mount Rainier National Park, you may need a reservation. The National Park Service is using a timed entry reservation system for the Sunrise and Paradise corridors beginning on Friday.

Reservations are required for vehicles traveling the corridors between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. For the Paradise Corridor, on the park’s south side, the reservation system begins on Friday. For Sunrise, the reservations become mandatory on July 4.

Visitors can get a vehicle reservation through The reservation is required in addition to a park pass.

Closer to home, anglers will have more opportunities to find fish beginning this weekend. Though some streams around the region stay open year-round, Saturday marks the general opener for rivers and streams in Washington.

The Spokane River is one of the rivers that reopens Saturday, marking the end of the annual springtime closure meant to help the river’s redband rainbow trout spawn.

Many smaller streams in northeast Washington also open Saturday, said Chris Donley, the regional fish program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

He said many of those smaller streams offer good fishing for small brook trout.

“People should take advantage of it,” Donley said.

He added that anglers should also consult the state’s regulations, as there are some streams that may not open until later in the year.

And there’s still time to bag a spring gobbler. Washington’s turkey season closes on May 31.