Some areas closed, others day-use only
Outdoor recreation in the Methow Valley and throughout eastern Washington is being restricted as state and federal land agencies have closed many recreation areas and limited public access due to active fires and extreme risk of additional fires.
Public land managers say they will monitor conditions to determine whether further actions may be needed. Here is a summary of current closures and restrictions related to public lands in and around the Methow Valley.
Fish and Wildlife
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) closed all of its lands in eastern Washington to overnight camping due to fire danger as of last Friday (July 23). Those areas, including water access areas on wildlife lands, are now open for day-use only, and restrictions apply to both motorized and on-foot users.
The closure comes “in response to increased fire risk and nationally depleted firefighting resources,” according to WDFW.
The day-use only announcement follows the total closure of recreation access at several sites in the Methow Wildlife Area, due to the proximity of the Cedar Creek and Cub Creek fires. Those closures include the Rendezvous, Early Winters, Big Valley and Methow units of the Methow Wildlife Area and the Patterson Lake water access.
“We don’t need more people coming to the Methow to recreate at this time,” said WDFW police officer Troy McCormick during a community fire meeting last week at Mack Lloyd Park in Winthrop. “We just don’t have the personnel or resources to patrol those areas,” he said.
The restrictions are in addition to an emergency order for all WDFW lands issued earlier this month by the agency, which prohibits:
• Fires or campfires, including in fire rings on WDFW lands.
• Discharging firearms for target shooting or other purposes except lawful hunting.
• Smoking outside a vehicle.
• Operating chainsaws, acetylene torches or other open flames.
• Operating motor vehicles away from developed roads or parking more than 10 feet from roadways.
WDFW enforcement officers will use a “zero-tolerance approach” and violators will be ticketed, WDFW said in a press release.
In addition to overnight closures and full closures, smaller specific closures may be implemented, WDFW said. For current information, WDFW advises checking the website at: wdfw.wa.gov/wildlifeareas.
The U.S. Forest Service’s Methow Valley Ranger District has issued an emergency area closure for a broad area impacted by the Cedar Creek and Cub Creek fires. The closure makes many campgrounds, trails and roads off-limits until further notice on Forest Service lands in the Mazama, Twisp River and Chewuch River areas.
“You can really help by staying outside of those closure areas,” Methow Valley District Ranger Chris Furr told community members at last week’s fire meeting in Winthrop.
“We get people in harm’s way and then we have to send people into harm’s way to get those people out. It’s a big area and I know how important getting out and recreating here is for you folks, but we just ask for your respect of those closure areas,” Furr said.
Information on Forest Service closures can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/detail/okawen/alerts-notices.
Washington State Parks
Pearrygin Lake State Park, one of the state’s most popular parks, was evacuated and closed on July 20. The Pearrygin Lake water access is also closed. The park will remain closed until further notice.
Methow Trails has closed all of its trails, many of which are on Forest Service land, until fire conditions change. “For now all trails from the Chickadee trailhead/Sun Mountain, all trails in the Mazama area, Rendezvous trails, and all trails accessed from the Chewuch River drainage are CLOSED to all users,” Methow Trails posted on its website last week.
Department of Natural Resources
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) temporarily closed all of its lands east of the Cascades as of July 23 due to fire danger.
The closure applies to all DNR-managed state lands, conservation areas, community forests and associated roads, trails, campgrounds, recreational sites and facilities.
There aren’t any established campgrounds in the Methow Valley. The closest DNR campground is at Leader Lake, located between Twisp and Okanogan on Highway 20. DNR land in the Methow Valley is mostly made up of forest and trust lands, according to spokesman Ryan Rodruck.
Firefighters are already stretched thin across the state and the number of fire ignitions is approximately double the 10-year average, said Hilary Franz, state commissioner of public lands. Fire danger in all of Eastern Washington is either at very high or extreme levels, according to DNR.
Updates on DNR recreation openings and closures can be found at: dnr.wa.gov/open.
Highway 20 is closed from milepost 165 to 185 and is expected to stay closed through July, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.