LAKEVIEW, Ore. – With winter weather patterns returning to south central Oregon, Fremont-Winema National Forest and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Lakeview District managers want to encourage visitors enjoying winter activities on public lands to stay safe, be prepared and to be aware of regulations.
Both the Fremont-Winema and Lakeview District BLM offer a variety of recreation opportunities for all seasons. Winter can be a great time to explore snowmobile, snowshoe and cross-country ski trails, as well as sledding, snow biking and wildlife watching.
However, winter brings increased risk for being outdoors – especially in the remote and rugged terrain of Lake and Klamath counties.
In the Forest, the greatest risk comes from quantity of snow and overall depth on roads and trails. On BLM roads, blowing snow and drifts can present a challenge and block roads. Either way, travelers should be prepared and take measures to avoid getting stuck.
As a general rule, when snow depth is 6 inches or greater, it is not safe to be on a Forest road in a wheeled vehicle. The roads are not plowed or maintained by the Forest during the winter and any plowing done by permittees for projects is inconsistent.
On the west side of the Forest, including the Klamath Ranger District, when there is a continuous snow depth of 6 inches or greater between November 1 and April 30, designated roads in the area become snowmobile and ski trails and are closed to wheeled traffic.
This is formally referenced as Order Number FWF-2014-13-02. Violations of the closure order are punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment of not more than 6 months or both.
Some tips for those enjoying winter on their public lands:
- Plan your trip – check the weather, bring plenty of warm clothes, enough water for everyone, emergency food, tire chains, shovel, flashlight, flares and/or something to start a fire with, cold weather sleeping back or blankets.
- Make sure you have a full tank of gas when you leave and are prepared for changing conditions in the mountains and high desert! Also, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
- Keep vehicles on designated roads and be aware of changing weather and road conditions. Wet dirt roads can quickly turn to mud, making it possible to get stuck and causing damage to road, soil and water resources.
- In snowy conditions, if the snow on the road is 3 inches or greater, turn around – conditions are not likely to improve ahead.
- If there are puddles in the road, mud flipping off the tires or you can see your ruts in the rearview mirror, turn around.
For those looking to safely enjoy winter recreation, there are Sno-Parks available in the area with access points to snowmobile and winter trails. Permits are required for these areas between November 1 and April 30.
When enjoying a more remote primitive recreation experience in dispersed areas, it’s advised to turn around when road conditions begin to deteriorate and find a safe place to pull over and park to recreate. Pay attention to weather conditions, including increased winds and snowfall to ensure plenty of time to safely head back home.
“Whether it’s a ski or snowshoeing trip or a stay at Hagar Mountain Lookout, winter recreation experiences can be spectacular and highly rewarding, but there is more risk and things can become deadly,” said Fremont-Winema National Forest Recreation Program Manager Scott Stoffel. “It’s critical to plan your trip, have the right gear, pay attention to conditions and be prepared in case you get stuck and need to spend a longer time out there. We want everyone to have a safe and fun experience.”
For more information on winter trails on the Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/fremont-winema and select “Recreation” and “Winter Sports”. The Jackson-Klamath Winter Recreation map is also available at Forest Service offices in Klamath County or digitally from Avenza Maps at www.avenzamaps.com. Prices vary depending on format and source.
Information on the BLM Lakeview District can be found at www.blm.gov/office/lakeview-district-office.