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Forest Service sees high country opening ‘a few weeks later than usual’ this Memorial Day

Memorial Day Weekend recreation planner



The upcoming Memorial Day weekend provides a great opportunity to visit the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. The following information will help you plan your visit.

Be advised that Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests offices will be closed Monday, May 28 to observe the Memorial Day holiday. Regular office hours will resume May 29.

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests experienced substantial snowpack this winter, and forest officials expect that campgrounds, trails, and other popular recreation locations in the high country may open a few weeks later than usual as snow continues to melt. Drive with caution, as many Forest Service roads in the high country are still closed due to snow or have snow on the roadway. For the latest condition updates, contact the local ranger district where you wish to travel before you head out to the forest. Office information is available online at www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nezperceclearwater/about-forest/offices.

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is completing extensive roadwork on U.S. Highway 12 this summer. Work is currently taking place at the Maggie Creek and Fish Creek bridges, and re–paving work is expected to begin in June. ITD has informed Forest Service officials that crews are not scheduled to be working during Memorial Day weekend, but travelers may experience delays of approximately 30 minutes at both the Maggie Creek and Fish Creek bridges sites as the bridges are reduced to one–lane traffic. See http://arcg.is/14iHC for construction updates.

Camping and Trails

Most campgrounds on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests offer first–come, first–served site selection, although you can reserve campsites at a few campgrounds managed by the forest. Contact your local Forest Service office for a list of local campgrounds that accept reservations. To reserve a campsite, call 1¬877-444-6777 or visit www.recreation.gov. Reservations should be made at least four days in advance.

Visitors can also camp in areas outside of developed campgrounds, called “dispersed sites.” Campers who choose to stay in dispersed sites should take extra care to protect natural resources. If you camp at a dispersed site, “Leave No Trace” of your stay. Use existing fire rings if available, and pack out your trash.

Many trails on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests are currently accessible, and crews are continuing to clear more trails as weather and conditions allow. Consider hazards involved with hiking, such as uneven terrain and steep grades, before heading out on the trail. In places recently impacted by fire, watch out for hazards such as falling trees, rolling logs and rocks, poor tread, and holes from burned-out stumps. Make appropriate safety considerations before heading out, which may include changing your travel plans. Be aware that conditions can change very quickly. Trail condition reports are available online at bit.ly/NPCtrails.

LOCHSA/POWELL RANGER DISTRICT: To accommodate early–season boaters enjoying the power of spring runoff and to kick–off celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Loops B and C at Wilderness Gateway Campground were opened in mid–April. Most other campgrounds on the Lochsa/Powell Ranger District will be open by May 25. Exceptions to this are the Elk Summit Campground, located off FSR 111/FSR 360, which is still under several feet of snow; and Wendover Campground, located at milepost 157 on U.S. Highway 12. The Wendover Campground area has a large stand of Grand Fir affected by root rot, and forest officials are working on a plan to address forest health and public safety concerns. Wendover Campground will remain closed until a plan to address these concerns can be finalized and implemented.

The RV dump at Wilderness Gateway Campground will be open by May 25. Water systems are operational at all campgrounds along U.S. Highway 12, but plan on boiling or filtering water through the holiday weekend, as water sampling has not yet been completed. Most campgrounds along U.S. Highway 12 with water systems should have potable water by the second week in June; signage will be posted at all water spigots where water is not currently potable.

The campground host position at Wilderness Gateway Campground has yet to be filled, and managers are looking for an outgoing individual or couple to greet visitors to the site. The position is funded and requires a two–month minimum commitment. Contact Danna Scholz, Developed Recreation Lead, at the Powell Ranger Station, 208-942-3113.

At the end of April, trail crews, volunteers and partners started work to open snow–free trail segments on the Lochsa/Powell Ranger District. Van Camp Trail #16, Big Hill Trail #65, and Pete King Trail #105 have been fully cleared, while Canyon Creek Trail #107 and Split Creek Trail #133 have each been cleared to approximately three miles in.

MOOSE CREEK RANGER DISTRICT: All campgrounds on the Moose Creek Ranger District will be open by May 25, with the exception of Selway Falls Campground, which is scheduled to open on June 8. Potable water is currently available at Johnson Bar and O’Hara campgrounds. The RV dump at Cedar Flats is expected to be open by May 25 pending a structural inspection. Use of the RV dump at Cedar Flats will cost $10 per visit this season. This charge was approved in 2017 by the Idaho Recreation Resource Advisory Council and funds will be used to keep the station pumped and available for use.

At the end of April, trail crews, volunteers and partners started work to open snow–free trail segments on the Moose Creek Ranger District. The Selway River Trail #4 has been cleared from the Race Creek Trailhead to Bear Creek Pack Bridge. Four miles of East Moose Trail #421 and one mile of Shissler Lookout Trail #693 were also cleared in this season’s opening hitch.

out to the forest. Office information is available online at www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nezperceclearwater/about-forest/offices.

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is completing extensive roadwork on U.S. Highway 12 this summer. Work is currently taking place at the Maggie Creek and Fish Creek bridges, and re–paving work is expected to begin in June. ITD has informed Forest Service officials that crews are not scheduled to be working during Memorial Day weekend, but travelers may experience delays of approximately 30 minutes at both the Maggie Creek and Fish Creek bridges sites as the bridges are reduced to one–lane traffic. See http://arcg.is/14iHC for construction updates.

Camping and Trails

Most campgrounds on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests offer first–come, first–served site selection, although you can reserve campsites at a few campgrounds managed by the forest. Contact your local Forest Service office for a list of local campgrounds that accept reservations. To reserve a campsite, call 1¬877-444-6777 or visit www.recreation.gov. Reservations should be made at least four days in advance.

Visitors can also camp in areas outside of developed campgrounds, called “dispersed sites.” Campers who choose to stay in dispersed sites should take extra care to protect natural resources. If you camp at a dispersed site, “Leave No Trace” of your stay. Use existing fire rings if available, and pack out your trash.

Many trails on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests are currently accessible, and crews are continuing to clear more trails as weather and conditions allow. Consider hazards involved with hiking, such as uneven terrain and steep grades, before heading out on the trail. In places recently impacted by fire, watch out for hazards such as falling trees, rolling logs and rocks, poor tread, and holes from burned-out stumps. Make appropriate safety considerations before heading out, which may include changing your travel plans. Be aware that conditions can change very quickly. Trail condition reports are available online at bit.ly/NPCtrails.

LOCHSA/POWELL RANGER DISTRICT: To accommodate early–season boaters enjoying the power of spring runoff and to kick–off celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Loops B and C at Wilderness Gateway Campground were opened in mid–April. Most other campgrounds on the Lochsa/Powell Ranger District will be open by May 25. Exceptions to this are the Elk Summit Campground, located off FSR 111/FSR 360, which is still under several feet of snow; and Wendover Campground, located at milepost 157 on U.S. Highway 12. The Wendover Campground area has a large stand of Grand Fir affected by root rot, and forest officials are working on a plan to address forest health and public safety concerns. Wendover Campground will remain closed until a plan to address these concerns can be finalized and implemented.

The RV dump at Wilderness Gateway Campground will be open by May 25. Water systems are operational at all campgrounds along U.S. Highway 12, but plan on boiling or filtering water through the holiday weekend, as water sampling has not yet been completed. Most campgrounds along U.S. Highway 12 with water systems should have potable water by the second week in June; signage will be posted at all water spigots where water is not currently potable.

The campground host position at Wilderness Gateway Campground has yet to be filled, and managers are looking for an outgoing individual or couple to greet visitors to the site. The position is funded and requires a two–month minimum commitment. Contact Danna Scholz, Developed Recreation Lead, at the Powell Ranger Station, 208-942-3113.

At the end of April, trail crews, volunteers and partners started work to open snow–free trail segments on the Lochsa/Powell Ranger District. Van Camp Trail #16, Big Hill Trail #65, and Pete King Trail #105 have been fully cleared, while Canyon Creek Trail #107 and Split Creek Trail #133 have each been cleared to approximately three miles in.

MOOSE CREEK RANGER DISTRICT: All campgrounds on the Moose Creek Ranger District will be open by May 25, with the exception of Selway Falls Campground, which is scheduled to open on June 8. Potable water is currently available at Johnson Bar and O’Hara campgrounds. The RV dump at Cedar Flats is expected to be open by May 25 pending a structural inspection. Use of the RV dump at Cedar Flats will cost $10 per visit this season. This charge was approved in 2017 by the Idaho Recreation Resource Advisory Council and funds will be used to keep the station pumped and available for use.

At the end of April, trail crews, volunteers and partners started work to open snow–free trail segments on the Moose Creek Ranger District. The Selway River Trail #4 has been cleared from the Race Creek Trailhead to Bear Creek Pack Bridge. Four miles of East Moose Trail #421 and one mile of Shissler Lookout Trail #693 were also cleared in this season’s opening hitch.

SALMON RIVER RANGER DISTRICT: Fee campgrounds located along the South Fork of the Clearwater River, including Castle Creek and South Fork campgrounds, are open and potable water is available. Fish Creek Campground, located seven miles south of Grangeville, is open and water is being tested this week; officials expect potable water to be available by the start of the holiday weekend. A camp host will be on site by this holiday weekend as well. Spring Bar Campground, located along the Salmon River, is open and potable water is available.

Rapid River Trail #59, located along the Salmon River, and the Johns Creek trail system, located along the South Fork of the Clearwater River, are cleared and offer early–season hiking opportunities due to their relatively low elevation. Crews cleared 45 miles of the main Salmon River Trail #96 and will continue working on other trails across the district as conditions allow.

RED RIVER RANGER DISTRICT: Red River Campground is open and water is being tested this week; officials expect potable water to be available by the start of the holiday weekend. Trails on the Red River Ranger District are mostly inaccessible due to snow.

Road Conditions

Road condition reports and road closure notices can be found on our website at www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nezperceclearwater/alerts-notices. Conditions are changing rapidly as snow melts and spring weather causes break–ups in terrain.

Off-highway vehicle users, note that 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 Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation website, www.parksandrecreation.idaho.gov, for a listing of registration sticker vendors and regulations. Also, remember that vehicles classed as UTVs (side-by-sides) are not allowed on Forest Service trails, regardless of weight or width.

HIGHWAY 12 CORRIDOR: Forest Service roads in the Highway 12 corridor are still likely to be snow covered at higher elevations; travelers are encouraged to call the Powell Ranger Station for updates. U.S. Highway 12 is open and snow–free. See http://arcg.is/14iHC for construction updates from the Idaho Transportation Department.

SELWAY RIVER CORRIDOR: Selway Road (FSR 223) is open and in good condition. The road was cleared of rocks and debris last month. Other roads on the district are closed either due to snow or road wash–outs. Closures are in place on O’Hara Road (FSR 651) and Swiftwater Road (FSR 470) due to fill slope failures. These closures, along with a full–sized vehicle closure on a portion of Falls Point Road (FSR 443), means that travel from Elk City to the Selway is not currently possible. Visitors can expect some roads on the district to open up as conditions improve and seasonal closures end; contact the Fenn Ranger Station for updates.

SALMON RIVER/HIGHWAY 95 CORRIDOR: The Grangeville–Salmon Road (FSR 221) is open to milepost 33. Snow and ice persist from milepost 23 to 26; travelers should be very careful. Through travel on FSR 221 is not currently recommended.

Slate Creek Road (FSR 354) is now clear from U.S. Highway 95 to FSR 221. The road to Pittsburg Landing (FSR 493) is also open. Other roads in the area still have snow at higher elevations, and many roads and trails have downed trees and rocks; call the Slate Creek Ranger Station for updates.

HIGHWAY 14 CORRIDOR: Spring break–up conditions are occurring throughout the area, and higher elevation forest roads are still snow–covered. Conditions are changing fast due to spring rains and warmer temperatures–contact the Salmon River or Red River Ranger District for updates.

Forest Service road (FSR) 222 is open from Highway 14 to Dixie and the Dixie Guard Station. Crooked River Road (FSR 233) is open from Highway 14 to the old Orogrande town site. Visitors are encouraged to travel with caution on FSR 233 as logging operations are taking place. The Deadwood Cut-Off Road (FSR 522) is now open; travelers can use this to avoid logging traffic on FSR 233.

Lightning Creek Road (FSR 244) and the road to Red River Hot Springs (FSR 234) are open as well. FSR 1858 from Highway 14 is only open to the Newsome town site. Whitewater Road (FSR 421) is open to full–sized vehicles all the way to Whitewater Ranch on the Salmon River. The road which runs through Elk City to FSR 222 is now open to regular traffic.

MAGRUDER ROAD: Travelers can drive approximately five miles in on the Elk City side of the Magruder Road (FSR 468, also known as the Montana Road), but the majority of the route is still closed due to snow. Contact the Red River Ranger District for updates.

Visitor Centers

Lolo Pass Visitor Center, located on U.S. Highway 12 at the Idaho–Montana state line, will be open on Memorial Day, Mon., May 28. Current hours of operation are Thursday through Monday, 7:30-4:15 p.m (PDT). Lolo Pass Visitor Center transitions to summer hours in early to mid–June; scheduling updates will be posted on the “Discover Your Northwest – Lolo Pass Visitor Center” Facebook page.

Stop by the Lochsa Historical Ranger Station, located 48 miles east of Kooskia along U.S. Highway 12. Starting May 25, the site will be open 9-5 p.m., seven days a week. Forest Service volunteers host the site and are happy to answer your questions about what life was like at remote ranger stations in days gone by.

More Information

Every year, Memorial Day weekend draws a crowd of people to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests for Lochsa Madness–a weekend of river adventure as whitewater enthusiasts take advantage of spring runoff and wild water on the Lochsa River. This year, the celebration includes events all weekend celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Visit bit.ly/LochsaWSR to see how you can join in.

Download the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests mobile app, which includes forest information, condition updates, and an informative tour of some of the most special places on the forest. The app can be used offline, making it useful when visiting campsites or trailheads.



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