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Memorial Day on the Nez Perce–Clearwater National Forests

   Snow-laden landscapes are giving way to green grass and wildflowers – a sure sign that spring has finally arrived.  An early season getaway to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests is the perfect way to celebrate the long Memorial Day Weekend. Welcome, warmer weather!

Campsites

   Most campgrounds offer first-come, first-served site selection, although you can reserve campsites at a few campgrounds managed by the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. Contact your local Forest Service office for a list of local campgrounds that accept reservations.

   To reserve a campsite, call Recreation.gov at 877-444-6777, or visit the Recreation.gov website: www.Recreation.gov. Reservations should be made at least four days in advance.

   Visitors can camp at sites outside developed campgrounds called “dispersed sites.” However, campers who choose to stay in undeveloped sites should take extra care to protect natural resources, such as plant life. If you camp at a dispersed site, leave no trace of your stay. Use existing fire rings if available, and pack out your trash.

   Three of the four developed campgrounds on the Palouse Ranger District - Laird Park, Little Boulder and Giant White Pine - are open, and all standard campground amenities are available. The Elk Creek Campground, near the town of Elk River, will open May 24. The Elk Creek Campground features 23 sites with electrical hookups; some sites can be reserved.

   There is no trash service at any of the four campgrounds on the Palouse District, so please take your refuse with you when you leave.

   You can reserve group picnic areas at Little Boulder and Laird Park Campgrounds, as well as the pavilion at Elk Creek Campground, by calling the Potlatch Ranger Station at (208) 875-1131.

      On the North Fork Ranger District, Aquarius Campground and Noe Creek Campground will open on Friday, May 24, just in time to welcome holiday visitors. Three popular campgrounds will remain closed through Memorial Day weekend: The Washington Creek and Kelly Forks Campgrounds are scheduled to open Friday, June 7, and Hidden Creek Campground is expected to open June 14.

   If you’re looking for a shady campsite on the shores of the Lochsa River, you’re in luck; all campgrounds on the Powell and Lochsa Ranger Districts, including Wilderness Gateway and Powell Campgrounds, will open by May 23. Elk Summit Campground will not be accessible until sometime in June, when Elk Summit Road 360 melts outs. The Jerry Johnson Campground will remain closed to overnight camping all summer, and Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is open for day use only from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

   Water systems have been turned on and tested at Wild Goose, Apgar, Wilderness Gateway, Wendover, Whitehouse, Powell and White Sands Campgrounds. Campers will have to bring water if they plan to stay at other Lochsa River sites.

   On the Moose Creek Ranger District, all of the campgrounds that flank the beautiful “Wild and Scenic” Selway River are open. Only Johnson Bar and O’Hara Campgrounds have water. Campers are welcome to fill water jugs at the Fenn Visitor Center, and there’s fresh water at the Cedar Flats Dump Station, too.

   Sam Manifold, Developed Recreation Tech, describes campgrounds on the Nez Perce National Forest as “great places to enjoy the long, lazy holiday weekend.”

   “Fee campgrounds situated along the South Fork Clearwater River, including Castle Creek Campground and South Fork Campground, are open and potable water is available. Spring Bar Campground, located along the Salmon River, is open, but water systems won’t be up and running until mid-June.” Manifold also said that Fish Creek Campground, located seven miles south of Grangeville, is open for the summer season and water should be available by May 24.

   On the Red River Ranger District, construction at Red River Campground has been completed and a new water system has been installed.  A fee of $6 per day is being reinstated from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

River and Stream Conditions

      River users will notice a few improvements at river access points along the Lochsa River. New toilets were recently installed at Boulder Flat and Bald Mountain. Rafters and kayakers will also find new stairs and a raft slide at Fish Creek River Access and new stairs at the Split Creek take-out. Changing rooms have been built at Fish Creek and Knife edge, and a new boat ramp is currently under construction at Bald Mountain.

   According to Heather Berg, the Forests’ Wild and Scenic Rivers Administrator, persons planning Memorial Day float trips are expected to exercise good judgment.  “River levels are predicted to be high and the water cold for Memorial Day Weekend,” Berg said. “Boaters are encouraged to use caution and wear personal floatation devices and helmets while on the water. If in doubt of your skills or equipment, utilize of the licensed and permitted whitewater outfitters.” 

Roads and Trails

   For your safety and to prevent damage to the land, stay on roads and trails and avoid those that are too wet or muddy. Spring break-up can wreak havoc on roads.

   Check with local ranger stations for recommended trails before planning your favorite hike, horseback ride or ATV adventure. For the most up-to-date information on road conditions and trail status, please visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nezperceclearwater/alerts-notices.

Trails

   Early-season trail users should do their homework before planning a trip to the backcountry. Due to a healthy snow pack and continued cool temperatures into April, only lower elevation trails and roads are currently open. Travel on all accessible national forest trails may still be slow going at times.

   On the Clearwater National Forest’s Powell and Lochsa Ranger Districts, trails are starting to clear of snow to roughly 5,000 feet in elevation although, in the deep woods, snow can still be found at 4,000 feet. Visitors hiking Forest trails over Memorial Day weekend should be aware that they may encounter downed trees, rocks, flooded trails, or other hazards.

   Most trails on the North Fork Ranger District are open for the first two to three miles. Trail users should always yield to stock.

   Off-highway vehicle users, note: ATVs and motorcycles driven on national forest roads and trails are subject to state of Idaho registration laws and requirements. Contact your local motor vehicle department or the state of Idaho Parks and Recreation website (www.idahoparks.org/recreation) for a listing of registration sticker vendors and regulations. Also, please remember that all vehicles classed as UTVs (side-by-sides), regardless of weight or width, are not allowed on Forest trails.  

Roads

   You can travel into the North Fork Clearwater River country via Beaver Creek Road 247. The road is open from Headquarters all the way to Bungalow, but travelers are advised to use caution. Road 247 may be narrow in places, and drivers should be wary of soft shoulders, sinkholes and slumps. Because of residual snow, it isn’t possible to access many of the spur roads that junction Road 247.

   On the North Fork Ranger District, French Mountain Road 250 is open from Pierce to Cedars Campground, although the road is reduced to a single lane near French Mountain Saddle. Road 250 through Black Canyon is open to car and truck traffic, but the road is closed to RVs and towed trailers due to large, loose rock and a slump near Hidden Creek. Road 255 through Deception Saddle is open.

     The Kamiah-Lolo Creek-Weippe Loop, Road 100, is open from end-to-end.  Road 103, Musselshell Meadows, is open for the first two miles from its junction with Road 100.

   Elk Meadows Road 373 and Granite Pass Road 595, near Lolo Pass on the Powell Ranger District, are starting to melt out, but neither road will open by Memorial Day.

   Most of the roads on the Salmon River and Red River Ranger Districts are open for a few miles before snow impedes travel. Memorial Day drivers should contact their local Forest office for updated road information. Conditions can change rapidly.

   The Magruder Road Corridor (Road 468) between Elk City and Darby, Montana, and the remains closed by snow.

Visitor Centers

   There are a handful of places you can stop for information, firewood permits, mushroom permits and maps while visiting the Nez Perce – Clearwater National Forests. All Forest Service offices will close Monday, May 27 in observance of Memorial Day.

   In Grangeville, be sure to stop by the Nez Perce National Forest Supervisor’s Office, located at 104 Airport Road. The office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.

   The historic Fenn Ranger Station, located just a few short miles from US Highway 12 near Lowell, is on the National Register for Historic Places. A self-guided walking tour highlights this beautifully landscaped, working historic ranger station built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

   The Lolo Pass Visitor Center on Highway 12 at the Idaho-Montana state line is open five days a week: Closed Wednesdays and Thursdays. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. (Pacific Time) each day. Beginning June 1, the visitor center will open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

   Forty-eight miles east of Kooskia, along Highway 12, stop by the Lochsa Historical Ranger Station. The station is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.  Forest Service volunteers host the site and are happy to answer your questions about what life was like on remote ranger stations in days gone by.

   The Kooskia Ranger Station is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Friendly Forest Service employees are ready to assist holiday travelers as they make their way to favorite campsites and recreation areas.

   In Orofino, the Clearwater National Forest Supervisor’s Office located along U.S. Highway 12 is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

   The Potlatch Ranger Station, 18 miles north of Moscow along State Highway 6, is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to welcome visitors.

For Information

   For more road and trail information and updates, call the Nez Perce National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 208-983-1950 or the Clearwater National Forest Information Desk at 208-476-8267. You’re also invited to check online at http://www.fs.usda.gov/nezperceclearwater.