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Recreationists will find summer-like conditions for holiday outings

Campers, hikers, boaters and anglers should be thinking of the 2015 Memorial Day holiday weekend as taking place in mid-to-late June rather than this Saturday through Monday.

The region’s snowpack has receded 3-4 weeks earlier than normal and is at below-average depths.

River levels are lower than average for this time of year.

Hiking trails are snow-free higher into the mountains, but trail crews have not had time to clear blowdowns on most open stretches.

Fire danger in lowland areas also is higher than usual, Washington State Department of Natural Resources officials say. 

Campers will have access to more sites for the unofficial start of the region’s camping season.

But as always, recreationists heading out for the Memorial Day weekend should check ahead with land managers to make sure roads, trails and destinations are ready to receive them.

Bumblebee Campground, for example, will be closed for the entire 2015 season. The Coeur d’Alene River campground has hazardous loose limbs in the towering trees, Idaho Panhandle National Forest officials say.

A typical winter of heavy snowfall likely would have naturally cleared the hazards to the ground where crews would have cleaned them up before opening the campground.

“Unfortunately, the last mild winter did not provide the needed stresses to clear the over-story of the loose tree limbs,” the Coeur d’Alene District said in a news release. Meanwhile, the neighboring Bumblebee Meadows is open for free dispersed camping. A vault toilet and porta potties are open and maintained.

Yakima River campers will find a new twist to getting a campsite on U.S. Bureau of Land Management campgrounds along the stream: Reservations are required. 

“Recognizing the increased popularity of the area, the Wenatchee Field Office that manages many of the campgrounds in the Yakima River Canyon has transitioned to an online reservation system,” the agency says in news release.

Reservations for camping can be made for the BLM’s Umtanum, Lmuma Creek, Big Pines, and Roza campgrounds through Sept. 15 up to six months in advance, but not less than 48 hours of the desired arrival date.

• The national reservation system for recreation sites on federal lands is accessed online, or by phone, (877) 444-6777. 

Blackwell Island Recreation Area on Lake Coeur d’Alene, another popular BLM recreation site with boat launches, is scheduled to open today. The Blackwell day-use boat access areas, including Mineral Ridge, are open 5 a.m.-11 p.m.  Season passes are available from BLM’s Coeur d’Alene District Office, (208) 769-5000.

The St. Joe River area will be a hot spot for Memorial Day Recreation, with 16 developed campgrounds, hundreds of dispersed campsites and access to about 700 miles of motorized and backcountry trails.

Not to mention good fishing.

Hikers can trek up the St. Joe River Trail into an area recommended for official wilderness, as well as to many higher lakes.

Trails, especially on south-facing slopes, throughout the region are mostly open to elevations of around 5,500 feet.

The St. Joe area also has numerous other attractions such as:

• Hobo Botanical Cedar Grove, a National Natural Landmark.

• Emerald Creek Garnet Area, open to digging for star garnets, which are only found in northern Idaho and India.

• Marble Creek Interpretive Site, featuring logging and homesteading history of the St. Joe Valley.

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