The Washington Outdoors Report

Coronavirus And Outdoors Recreation

Spencer Spit State Park – J. Kruse

In this time of uncertainty, stress and social distancing one sure fire way to unwind and get your mind off the news about the coronavirus pandemic is to get outside.  Our public lands in Washington State are waiting for you though there are a few restrictions. 

STATE PARKS:  There are 125 state parks in Washington encompassing more than 120,000 acres.  Day-use areas are open to the public though there are some changes in place which include:

• Visitor and interpretive centers are closed.
• Most of the special activities, events, programs and special permits are cancelled.
• Campgrounds, cabins and yurts are closed.  No camping is allowed until at least April 30TH and the use of group areas such as picnic shelters are restricted.

To protect both park employees and the public you’ll find staff are

• Using drive-up/walk-up windows when possible.
• Limiting the number of visitors in an office.
• Providing electronic options for purchasing passes and making reservations.
• Using automated pay stations, where available.

NATIONAL PARKS:  Even during a normal year visitor centers at North Cascades National Park don’t open up until mid-May and it will be several more weeks until Highway 20 over Washington Pass is cleared of snow.

Mount Rainier National Park, on the other hand, is open from the Nisqually entrance to Paradise but all the visitor center and snow play area at Paradise are both closed, as is the Longmire Museum due to coronavirus concerns.  The Carbon River road is also closed due to a wash out.

At Olympic National Park there are nearly a million acres of land to explore, much of it rainforest, along with 70 miles of coastline.  However, all visitor centers are closed and both the Makah and Quileute Tribes have closed access to their reservations to the public which means the popular Shi Shi Beach and Second Beach trailheads are now off limits. Winter operations have ceased at Hurricane Ridge.  Also closed are the pools at Sol Duc Hot Springs and guided rainforest tours are cancelled.  However, all of the lodges and resorts in the park remain open with overnight accommodations. 

Looking for a good piece of news to share?  All entry fees have been waived at National Parks to cut down on interactions between National Park Service employees and visitors.

WASHINGTON DEPT. OF FISH AND WILDLIFE:  After Governor Inslee’s order banning groups of more than 50 people congregating together an unfounded rumor began circulating on social media that state wildlife areas and boat launch sites were closed.  Jason Wettstein with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says this is not true and the agency does not anticipate closing either public lands or boat access sites.  However, regional offices and fish hatcheries are closed for public access and camping is no longer allowed on WDFW or DNR lands through at least April 30th.

U.S. FOREST SERVICE:  The US Forest Service welcomes visitors on their lands.  However, Robin DeMario with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest says while people are encouraged to enjoy National Forests most campgrounds are closed along with most restrooms and garbage service is not available either. Those restrooms that are open are not being cleaned on a regular basis. DeMario also reminds visitors to practice social distancing at trailheads, viewpoints and other places where crowds typically gather.    

Offices and ranger stations are now closed to public access in the Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forest though they will be staffed so the public can call or email with questions.  Call in advance to your local ranger station or office to see if it’s open at a location near you. 

O’CANADA:  If you were thinking of going north of the border for fishing or outdoors recreation you are out of luck for now.  Canada and the United States jointly decided to close the border to non-essential travel.  That means commercial trade is allowed but recreational travel and tourism are prohibited.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  Your public lands, both state and federal, are open.  Operations are changing daily though so be sure to check the location you are interested in whether it be through their website or on Facebook to see if any further changes are taking place.  In the meantime, take advantage of the opportunities these places provide. Whether you want to go boating or paddling, go for a hike, check out the wildlife or go fishing, a day afield or on the water is a great tonic for what is ailing us in our state and country now.

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