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Campgrounds open for summer season this holiday weekend

by Western News
| May 26, 2009 12:00 AM

Kootenai National Forest campgrounds will officially open for the summer season Memorial Day weekend, the U.S. Forest Service announced.

Overnight camping fees are charged only at selected campgrounds containing designated tent or trailer spaces, drinking water, access roads, refuse containers, toilet facilities, campfire facilities and reasonable visitor protection.

Forest users will find campsite fees ranging from $5-$12, depending on facilities offered, and will be clearly identified by Forest Service fee signs. There is no charge for National Forest picnic areas, boat ramps, hiking trails, scenic drives, toilet facilities, wayside exhibits or undeveloped, outdoor recreation areas.

Campground hosts will be available throughout the season at selected sites to provide general information and assistance, and aid in campground maintenance. Those sites include Rexford Bench, Rexford Bench Boating Site, Peck Gulch, Rocky Gorge, Douglas Hill, North Dickey Lake, Big/Little Therriault, Yaak River, Dorr Skeels, Bad Medicine, Pete Creek, Whitetail, McGillivray, McGregor Lake, Howard Lake, Bull River and North Shore.

Those seeking non-fee campgrounds and picnic areas may wish to visit any of the following sites:  Triangle Pond, Big Eddy, Marten Creek, Rock Lake, Grave Creek, Swisher Lake, Loon Lake, Lake Creek, Spar Lake, Yaak Falls, Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area, Dorr Skeels, Sylvan Lake, Willow Creek, Red Top, Caribou, Camp 32, and South Dickey Lake.

Lake Creek campground will be open for the season, however, the public water system will not be activated. 

Persons 62 years of age or older may purchase a lifetime Interagency Senior Pass for $10. Interagency Access Passes are available free of charge to blind, deaf or permanently disabled persons. Both passes entitle the holder access to sites with entrance fees and to one-half camping amenity fees.

The Interagency Annual Pass, primarily issued by the National Park Service, sells for $80. That pass is an entrance pass to federal lands including national parks, refuges, recreation areas, historic sites and monuments that charge entrance fees – areas managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. The pass can also be used for entrance to other Agriculture and Interior public land sites. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has no entrance fees on lands under its jurisdiction.  The Kootenai Forest does not charge entrance fees.

The Interagency Annual Pass admits the pass holder and any accompanying passengers in a private vehicle.  Where entry is not by private vehicle, the pass admits the pass holder, spouse, children and parents. The pass is valid for a 12-month period starting with the date of purchase and ending the last day of the purchase month one year later.

All passes are available at any Forest Service office, but visitors should note that Interagency Annual Passes are not applicable to reductions in Forest Service reservation or overnight camping fees.

Congress passed the Recreation Enhancement Act in 2004 which authorizes participating sites to retain up to 80 percent of the fees at the project level.

Funds collected will be used for site enhancements, educational and resource protection programs and visitor services. Last year, funds were used to provide maintenance to facilities and camping sites, provide additional toilet pumping and provide for host services.

Improvements for 2009 include a contract awarded in 2008 to be completed this year. Work is being finished in Bad Medicine, Yaak River, Whitetail and North Dickey Beach. Contract work is continuing in Rexford Bench, McGillivray and Howard Lake. Some additional work is planned in Big Eddy and Triangle Pond.

A new contract will be awarded to improve Spar Lake Campground. Improvements will include adding four additional sites and replacing the toilets.  The campground will be closed during construction, so campers should check with the Three Rivers Ranger District to determine when the campground is open.

A second contract will be awarded in late summer to provide improvements in North Shore and Bull River campgrounds. Work is expected to start after Labor Day and be completed before Memorial Day 2010.

With the heavy snow loads that exist at higher elevations, several campgrounds may not be available by Memorial Day. Sites that are not likely to be open include Howard Lake, Willow Creek, Spar Lake and Big and Little Therriault. With the larger than normal winter damage in the campgrounds, visitors may find spring cleanup work still in progress.

Although many site upgrades and changes will be accomplished by the end of this fiscal year, visitors may be inconvenienced this summer by fewer improvements and services in the past. Forest Service officials said the overall budget is a major consideration and adjustments are being made to provide adequate accommodations to the recreating public.  As construction allows, closure dates and services may vary at individual campgrounds.  It is best to contact the appropriate District Office for further information before planning an overnight trip.

For information

Rexford Ranger District, Eureka, 296-2536

Fortine Ranger District, Fortine, 882-4451

Three Rivers Ranger District, Troy, 295-4693

Libby Ranger District, Libby, 293-7773

Cabinet Ranger District, Trout Creek, 827-3533

Kootenai National Forest online: http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/kootenai/