In advance of another round of 100-degree days in the forecast, along with worsening drought conditions across the state, the Oregon Department of Forestry has decided to ban all campfires as well as the use of motorized vehicles on non-paved roads in a large swath of the Tillamook State Forest.
The impacted areas extend east along two major routes: from the Sunset Rest Area along Highway 26 (Milepost 29) and the Kings Mountain Trailhead (Milepost 25) off of Highway 6. The restrictions go into effect at 1 am Wednesday, Aug. 11.
“Given the extreme fire danger and extensive drought throughout the Northwest, ODF is taking this step to reduce the number of human-caused fires and allow firefighting resources to focus efforts on the current large fires as well as new fires likely to emerge,” Northwest area director Andy White stated in a press release. “We thank Oregonians for your understanding.”
Both hiking and camping will still be allowed, so you can expect popular destinations like Gales Creek Campground, Rogers Camp Trailhead and Elk Creek Campground to remain accessible for now. ODF says those sites are all close enough to paved roads, making them easy for firefighters to reach in case a blaze does break out. However, open fires are still prohibited, even if you’re staying overnight.
One set of recreationalists will have to go elsewhere to get their fix for now, though: ATV riders. There are many paths crisscrossing the forest in those areas favored by off-highway vehicle operators, particularly along Highway 6, but the fire danger is currently just too high to allow that activity to continue.
Other agencies today also announced further restrictions in natural areas, citing the burn risk.
The Siuslaw National Forest, which extends from the western Willamette Valley to the Pacific Ocean, encompassing well-loved landmarks like Mary’s Peak, Sand Lake and Drift Creek Falls, is banning all campfires within its boundaries. That includes sand camps, and begins Friday, Aug. 13.
Meanwhile, the Willamette National Forest has closed several recreation sites because of the lightning-caused Knoll Fire, which has charred approximately 375 acres some 50 miles east of Eugene. The Olallie Campground, McKenzie River National Trail, Deer Creek Hot Springs and over a dozen forest roads are off limits until further notice.
No matter where you plan to camp or hike this summer, always check the Forest Service and Oregon Parks and Recreation websites before heading out. On July 22, ODF enacted a prohibition on open flames in all state parks and state-managed forests east of Interstate 5. If heat waves and bone-dry conditions persist, it’s likely additional fire restrictions will be enacted before the end of summer.