Friday, May 26, 2006

Lingering snowpack restricts holiday

Lower elevations, southern Sawtooth Forest offer best options


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

Those hoping to recreate on the Sawtooth National Forest and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area should expect that many of the amenities that are typically accessible during the Memorial Day holiday will not be this year.

Far more than in most years, deep snowpacks and extremely wet conditions still exist across a wide swath of the Sawtooth National Forest and the SNRA, said Shanna Robinson, office manager for the Sawtooth National Forest's Ketchum Ranger Station.

"It's going to be a really big weekend," Robinson said. "And it's going to be pretty restricted."

That includes closures on many roads, trails and campgrounds, she said. Further, Robinson said, campers should expect to find very little in the way of dispersed camping opportunities.

Still, not all is lost, she said. The further south one goes on the forest the better the conditions they'll find, Robinson said. Expect to find more southerly conditions that are "pretty open, pretty dry," she said.

Recreationists should be especially aware of road closures, Robinson said. "A lot of forest roads are still closed," she said. "If they look really muddy don't try it."

While many higher backcountry trails are still heavily snowbound, most trails at lower elevations are open for hiking, Robinson said. Reports from the SNRA do indicate, however, that the Harriman Trail is closed from the SNRA Headquarters for about 1.2 miles due to being washed out by high river flows.

Forest officials are also warning recreationists, especially those with young children and pets, to pay particularly close attention when they're around fast-moving streams and rivers.

The following is a more detailed breakdown of the camping conditions on the Ketchum Ranger District of the Sawtooth National Forest and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area:

· The Boundary, Federal Gulch and Sawmill campgrounds on the Ketchum Ranger District are open. Current road and trail conditions can be obtained by calling the Ketchum Ranger District at (208) 622-5371 or the Sawtooth National Forest webpage at www.fs.fed.us/r4/sawtooth.

· SNRA campgrounds in the Wood River Valley that are open with full service and fees include the North Fork, Murdock, Caribou, Wood River and the RV dump station at North Fork.

· Also open on the SNRA is the Alturas Lake North Shore Picnic Area, the Pettit Lake Campground, and Redfish Lake campgrounds except for the Sockeye and Mt. Heyburn campgrounds. One loop of the Sunny Gulch campground is also open.

· Campsites open downriver from Stanley with fees are the Salmon River, Casino Creek, Upper O'Brien, Whiskey Flats and Holman campgrounds.

· Other campsites open are Stanley Lake, Stanley Lake Inlet (four sites only), Elk Creek, Sheep Trail, Trap Creek and Grandjean campgrounds.

·  Campsites for the summer season can be reserved online at www.reserveusa.com, or by calling the national recreation reservation service at 1 (877) 444-6777. Campground reservations cannot be made by calling individual ranger stations.




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