- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Campers heading out of Portland over Labor Day weekend have caught a break.

Fires and drought have left their marks around the Pacific Northwest this summer, but when all things are considered, most outdoor recreation options are on the table for this weekend and continuing through early autumn, when the region typically gets its most pleasant weather.

Fires continue to burn, especially in the northern Washington Cascades, where land closures are in place for much of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

That’s a bit far afield for a long summer weekend getaway for Portlanders. However, a place that many often go, Mount Adams in the southern Washington Cascades, has much of its south side and all of its wilderness closed to public entry due to fire.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that a slight change in the weather over the weekend has prompted land managers to ease some restrictions that had been in place.

Oregon fishery managers announced Tuesday that the afternoon fishing ban on most rivers and streams in the state had been lifted, as of Sept. 1. Managers also re-opened the lower Willamette River below Willamette Falls and the Clackamas River downstream of the I-205 bridge to fishing for trout, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon.

The Willamette National Forest east of Salem credited recent cooler and wetter weather as a reason to again allow campfires in its campgrounds in metal fire rings. Other forests and parks will ease restrictions as conditions warrant. Check the situation locally. The statewide Oregon ban on open flames on state park lands will continue for another week.

The return of wet soaking rain is still a long way away, though a major El Nino building in the Pacific Ocean shows promise for a much-needed wet winter in the Pacific Northwest and West Coast.

Until that happens, the region’s reservoirs will continue to be as low as they’ve been since 2001, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages many of the reservoirs in the Willamette and Rogue valleys.

“We started 25 inches of rain short this spring from filling the reservoirs and have had no significant rain since,” said Scott Clemans, public affairs specialist for the Corps of Engineers’ Portland District. “We expect rain that does fall to first recharge the underground aquifers before it has much effect on the reservoirs.”

Despite obvious stumps and dry banks on many reservoirs, boating continues to be available, even on Detroit Lake where marinas were high and dry three months ago for Memorial Day Weekend. Many reservoirs have boat ramps built for use in low water that allow launching in shallow pools behind the region’s dams.

The Oregon Marine Board cautions boaters to wear life jackets and to be wary of hidden objects just below the surface that could hinder navigation.

Reservoirs that lack boat access include Blue River and Cougar in the Willamette Valley and Prineville in central Oregon. Unity and Owyhee in eastern Oregon have been extremely low all summer.

Despite low reservoirs, many still have good water for boating, including Billy Chinook and Simtustus in central Oregon, Timothy Lake at Mount Hood and Merwin on the Lewis River in southwest Washington. Rivers including the Deschutes and Rogue are fed by springs and continue near normal flows even in drought seasons, as long as a drought doesn’t last multiple years.

Fires continue to burn in Oregon, though not nearly of the size in Washington. Because of where and what is burning, land closures likely affect local recreationists and hunters more than urban residents looking for a three-day getaway.

The Canyon Creek fire near John Day has forced closure of the southwest part of the Malheur National Forest, including part of the Strawberry Wilderness. Three fires on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest of northeast Oregon have forced some land closures, with the Hurricane Creek trailhead near Joseph and a large segment of the forest southwest of the Eagle Cap Wildness most likely to affect those traveling distances for recreation.

The Stouts fire near Tiller and the Collier Butte fire near Gold Beach have small land closures that likely affect hunters more than any other recreation group.

The National Creek fire near Diamond Lake, which had one of the bigger impacts on campers this summer in the Oregon Cascades, has a much smaller closure. The Broken Arrow campground and the north entrance to Crater Lake National Park, which had been closed, have recently reopened.

The Umatilla National Forest in northeast Oregon is the setting for the Grizzly Bear fire, where closures extend into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, but the main road closure is on the north in Washington toward Bluewood Ski Area.

Water recreation continues pretty much as normal for late summer on the Columbia River, due to its water sources in the Canadian Rockies and the Tetons of Wyoming.

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department continues to keep park campgrounds open despite the challenge to motorized boaters on its reservoir-based parks, including Detroit and Fall Creek in the Willamette Valley, Joseph Stewart on the Rogue River and Prineville, Unity and Owyhee in central and eastern Oregon. Paddlers are making use of quieter waters because of the lack of motor boats.

The original story can be found on The Oregonian’s website: https://bit.ly/1NayPgv


Information from: The Oregonian, https://www.oregonlive.com

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