Though snow may have thawed from the foothills, forest officials are warning that many forest roads are still not accessible due to mud or snow. In addition, traveling on thawing, saturated, and muddy roads can result in resource damage and serious safety concerns, especially if visitors are unprepared.
“We typically see multiple incidents this time of year where families head up for the day, get stuck and end up spending the night or making a very long hike out to look for help,” said Lisa Rynearson, safety officer for the Malheur National Forest.
Many places in the Blue Mountains have limited or no cellphone coverage, so forest visitors should always be prepared to spend the night in the forest with warm clothing, food and plenty of water.
“Before you head out, always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return,” said Lee Mercer, safety officer for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
Forest officials are also encouraging the public to minimize impacts to natural resources from travel on roads that are susceptible to rutting due to warmer weather and melting snowpack.
It is illegal to operate a vehicle on or off-road in a manner that damages or unreasonably disturbs land and vegetation.
Forest officials remind users that some roads remain seasonally closed for wildlife or resource concerns in spite of early access.
For more information on forest road conditions, contact officials at the Malheur National Forest at 541-575-3000, Umatilla National Forest at 541-278-3716 or Wallowa-Whitman National Forest at 541-962-8500.