Heading For The Hills For Memorial Day? Check On Idaho Campground Status First

May 22, 2020

Many Idaho campgrounds are opening up just in time for Memorial Day weekend. But if you’re venturing into nature this year be prepared to be self-sufficient, with services limited by the pandemic.

That’s because crews got a late start re-opening campgrounds because of COVID-19, according to Boise National Forest spokeswoman Venetia Gempler.

“It's not as simple as unlocking the gate and opening the campground,” she said.

Trees fall on picnic tables during winter, toilets need to be emptied, water systems tested, firing rings replaced and so on. So don’t count on amenities, like toilets. 

One of the thousands of Idahoans going camping this weekend is Margo Gore. The Meridian high school teacher has been cooped up for two months with her family and says the long weekend couldn’t come quickly enough.

“We have all been working remotely,” she said. “My kids have been engaged in remote learning. And the idea that we can get away from our computers and our cell phones will be such a respite.”

And she says she’ll be prepared for “dry camping.” That means, like the old slogan, pack it in, pack it out.

Public lands officials say another limitation to keep in mind is search and rescue.

“Be safe and don't do anything reckless because we have limited capacity out in the forest for emergency services,” Gempler said.

As for what is open and what is closed — it’s a patchwork. The popular campgrounds in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area will remain closed until June 5, though trails and trailheads will be open and dispersed camping is allowed. And campgrounds in the rest of the Sawtooth National Forest are open.

And pandemic or not, many high elevation campgrounds don’t open until June or later. That’s all a long way of saying, check on campground status before hitting the road. And forest officials say they’re expecting to get inundated by travelers, so leave early if you can.

Follow Heath Druzin on Twitter, @HDruzin

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