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'Know before you go': Camping on Oregon's forestlands takes some preparation

Some areas of Oregon's forestlands are still feeling the effects of the 2020 and 2021 wildfires, while others are still experiencing winter-like conditions.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Memorial Day weekend is off to a rainy start, but it's also the gateway to the summer camping season. If you're heading out to enjoy Oregon's great outdoors, U.S. Forest Service officials say you should plan ahead and keep safety in mind.

While many campgrounds are open, including some with first-come, first-served camping opportunities, Catherine Caruso with the Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region recommends people plan their trips early, because holiday weekends are extremely busy.

"If you're not able to get a campsite or the campsite you're looking for, you know what, there are a lot of great opportunities for day trips on the forest too this year," said Caruso.

But those who do find a spot should keep in mind that just because an area has reopened to access doesn't mean that it's safe. More than half a million acres of forests and grasslands burned across Washington and Oregon in 2020 and 2021. Caruso said that areas in and below recently-burned areas are at increased risk of falling trees, falling rocks, landslides, flash floods and hidden ash pits for up to a decade after a fire.

"It's really never safe ... we really want people to be informed about risks, and make informed decisions about risks before they head out," Caruso said.

Over at Mount Hood National Forest, late season snowfall made for delays in opening several campgrounds. 

"It's always a good idea to look around, especially if you're backcountry camping," said Heather Ibsen, public affairs officer with Mt. Hood National Forest. "We had pretty good snowfall in April and May, so that means the snowpack in the Mount Hood area is packed really well above average."

The opening of higher elevation campgrounds including Trillium Lake, Frog Lake and Still Creek is delayed by a couple of weeks because of the late winter. Where rivers and lakes are fed by snowmelt, the waters are also exceptionally cold, increasing risks for recreation activities in or around water.

"So, one of our big messages for folks going into summer is please, please, please, know before you go. Take some time to get educated about the area you plan to visit," said Caruso.

RELATED: Late-season snow delays opening for several popular Mount Hood campgrounds

RELATED: 19 months after a wildfire shut it down, Highway 224 reopens May 1

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