Friday, May 22, 2015

Memorial Day weekend on the Nez Perce–Clearwater National Forests

Snow-laden landscapes are giving way to green grass and wildflowers – a sure sign that spring has finally arrived. An early season getaway to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests is the perfect way to celebrate the long Memorial Day Weekend. 


Most campgrounds offer first-come, first-served site selection, although you can reserve campsites at a few campgrounds managed by the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. Contact your local Forest Service office for a list of local campgrounds that accept reservations. 

To reserve a campsite, call at 1­ (877) 444-6777, or visit: Reservations should be made at least four days in advance.

Visitors can camp at sites outside developed campgrounds called “dispersed sites.” However, campers who choose to stay in undeveloped sites should take extra care to protect natural resources, such as plant life. If you camp at a dispersed site, leave no trace of your stay. Use existing fire rings if available, and pack out your trash. 

All campgrounds on the Palouse Ranger District are now open with all standard campground amenities available. Laird Park, Little Boulder and Giant White Pine are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Elk Creek Campground, near the town of Elk River, features 23 sites with electrical hookups; a portion of the campground sites can be reserved through or by calling 1 (877) 444-6777.

There is no trash service at any of the four campgrounds on the Palouse District, so please take your refuse with you when you leave. 

You can reserve group picnic areas at Little Boulder and Laird Park Campgrounds, as well as the pavilion at Elk Creek Campground, by calling the Potlatch Ranger Station at (208) 875-1131.

On the North Fork Ranger District, Aquarius Campground is already up and running. Washington Creek and Noe Creek Campgrounds are set open on Friday, May 22, just in time to welcome holiday visitors. Two popular campgrounds will remain closed through Memorial Day weekend: The Kelly Forks Campground is scheduled to open Friday, June 5, and Hidden Creek Campground is expected to open June 12.

If you’re looking for a shady campsite on the shores of the Lochsa River, you’re in luck; all campgrounds on the Powell and Lochsa Ranger Districts, including Wilderness Gateway, Powell, Wendover and Whitehouse Campgrounds, will open by May 22. Lolo Campground and White Sands Campground opened in early May. Elk Summit Campground and Rocky Ridge Campground will most likely not be accessible until sometime mid to late June, when the snow melts outs. Jerry Johnson Campground will remain closed all summer, and Jerry Johnson Hot Springs is open for day use only from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Water systems have been turned on and tested at Wild Goose, Apgar, Wilderness Gateway, Wendover, Whitehouse, Powell, and White Sands Campgrounds. Campers will have to bring water if they plan to stay at other Lochsa River sites.

On the Moose Creek Ranger District, all of the campgrounds that flank the beautiful “Wild and Scenic” Selway River are open. Johnson Bar has potable water. O’Hara Campground has been open since May 8 and the water system is on. The RV dump station at Cedar Flats is open and available to campers. Visitors are welcome to fill water jugs at the Fenn Visitor Center. 

On the Salmon River Ranger District, all of the following campgrounds are $12 a night. Fee campgrounds located along the South Fork Clearwater River, including Castle Creek and South Fork Campground, are open and potable water is available. However, dumpsters will not be available until June 1. A camp host is on site. Fish Creek Campground, located seven miles south of Grangeville is open with potable water available. A camp host is on site. Spring Bar Campground, located along the Salmon River is open, potable water is available and camp host is planned to arrive on site before Memorial Weekend. Dumpsters won’t be available until July 1. 

The Red River Campground, located on the Red River Ranger District, is open. Water is on, but it is not potable. Part of the system is down due to a cracked valve, recreation staff plans to have it fixed before the weekend. No camp host available.

River and stream conditions

Boaters are encouraged to use caution and wear personal floatation devices and helmets while on the water. For the adventurous, there are several outfitters that provide whitewater adventures on the Lochsa, Selway and Salmon Rivers. Outfitter information can be found at 

Roads and trails

For your safety and to prevent damage to the land, stay on roads and trails and avoid those that are too wet or muddy. Spring break-up can wreak havoc on roads.


On the Powell and Lochsa Ranger Districts, trails are starting to clear of snow to roughly 3500’ in elevation although, in the deep woods, snow can still be found at 5000’. Visitors hiking Forest trails over Memorial Day weekend should be aware that they might encounter downed trees, rocks, flooded trails, or other hazards.

Trail crews are just beginning to open trails on the Powell, Lochsa, and Moose Creek Ranger Districts. Selway River Trail #4 and Meadow Creek Trail #726, between the trailhead at Slims Camp and Meadow Creek Cabin, are open and are good destinations Memorial Day hikers and stock users.

Most low-elevation trails on the North Fork Ranger District are open for the first two to three miles.

Trail users should always to yield to stock. 

Off-highway vehicle users, note: ATVs and motorcycles driven on national forest roads and trails are subject to state of Idaho registration laws and requirements. Contact your local motor vehicle department or the state of Idaho Parks and Recreation website at: for a listing of registration sticker vendors and regulations. Also, please remember that all vehicles classed as UTVs (side-by-sides), regardless of weight or width, are not allowed on Forest trails. 


On the North Fork Ranger District, French Mountain Road 250, from Pierce to Kelly Forks and north, through Black Canyon, is open. Due to residual snow and plow berms, the road might be narrow in places, so drivers should proceed with care. The remainder of Road 250, Cedars Campground to Hoodoo Pass, remains blocked by snow. Road 255, Kelly Forks through Deception Saddle is open, but in rough shape. Toboggan Ridge Road 581, from its junction with Road 255 to Cayuse Landing, is in poor condition. The road is washed out in spots and it’s difficult to navigate; drivers should think twice and use extreme caution. 

Road 100 is open from Kamiah to Lolo Creek Campground. Due to severe slumping and a broken road surface, part of the road has closed at Eldorado Creek, near the junction with Road 500. Traffic will be detoured along Road 500, the Lolo Motorway, to Cedar Creek Road 520. From there, travelers will make their way west on Road 5132, which junctions with Road 100 near Nevada Creek. 

Road 100 from Pierce is open to the Bradford Bridge, but motorists will come across a six-mile-long detour prior to reaching the bridge. The detour route is narrow and covered with debris in places, so drivers should proceed with care. Despite the short distance, travel time may be as long as 45 minutes. The route is not recommended for RVs or tow trailers. 

Road 103, Musselshell Meadows, is open for the first two miles from its junction with Road 100.

Elk Meadows Road 373 and Granite Pass Road 595, near Lolo Pass on the Powell Ranger District, are starting to melt out, but neither road will open by Memorial Day.

Most of the roads on the Salmon River and Red River Ranger Districts are open for a few miles before snow impedes travel. Memorial Day drivers should contact their local Forest office for updated road information. Conditions can change rapidly. 

The Magruder Road Corridor (Road 468) between Elk City and Darby, Montana, remains closed by snow.

Visitor centers

There are a handful of places you can stop for information, firewood permits, mushroom permits and maps while visiting the Nez Perce–Clearwater National Forests. All Forest Service offices will close Monday, May 25th in observance of Memorial Day. 

The historic Fenn Ranger Station, located just a few short miles from US Highway 12 near Lowell, is on the National Register for Historic Places. A self-guided walking tour highlights this beautifully landscaped, working historic ranger station built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Fenn Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday. The Fenn Visitor Center will be issuing commercial use mushroom permits.

The Lolo Pass Visitor Center on Highway 12 at the Idaho-Montana state line will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday of Memorial Day week. Hours of operation will be from 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Beginning June 1, the Visitor Center will be open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Pacific Time) each day. The Visitor Center has personal use mushroom permits available, but will not be selling commercial use mushroom permits.

Forty-eight miles east of Kooskia, along Highway 12, stop by the Lochsa Historical Ranger Station. Beginning May 22, the station will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. Forest Service volunteers host the site and are happy to answer your questions about what life was like on remote ranger stations in days gone by.

For Information

For more road and trail information and updates, call the Supervisor’s Office in Kamiah at (208) 935-2513, the Grangeville Office at (208) 983-1950 or the North Fork Ranger District Office at (208) 476-8267. You’re also invited to check online at

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