Visitors asked to be safe and aware while enjoying recreation on public lands

Release Date: Nov 24, 2020

Contact(s): Tamara Schmidt


LAKEVIEW, Ore. – Fremont-Winema National Forest managers want to encourage visitors enjoying the outdoors as we transition from fall to winter recreation to stay safe, be prepared and to be aware of regulations.

The mingling of sunny days with winter storms can make it seem like snow is melting and the Forest is still completely accessible.  However, conditions can be deceiving and it is easy to get stuck, especially in the remote and rugged terrain of Lake and Klamath counties.

Recently, Forest and area Search and Rescue units have seen an uptick in people getting stuck on Forest Roads.  Especially in areas where recent snowstorms have left snowy and icy conditions.  Many of the people requiring rescue are not prepared if things go wrong.

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.  During the fall, there is risk of getting stuck associated with any snow-covered road regardless of depth.

Snow on north-facing slopes is the first to establish in the fall and last to break up in the spring.  It presents an ongoing challenge that can result in being stuck.  While the weather is sunny, it is still cold, especially in the mountains.  Several Forest roads now have areas that are icy or covered in unstable, early season snow that presents risks to drivers.

With the holiday season starting this week and more people with family traditions to harvest a Christmas tree on the Forest, there are concerns more people may require assistance to get out of a sticky situation in the Forest.  The best advice is to be prepared and turn around before getting stuck.

Some tips for those enjoying winter recreation on their public lands:

  • Plan your trip – check the weather, bring plenty of warm clothes, enough water for everyone for 3 days, emergency food, tire chains, shovel, flashlight, flares and/or something to start a fire with, camp saw or hatchet, and cold weather sleeping bag 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.
  • Do not count on technology – GPS can steer drivers onto impassable roads and there is not cellphone service across most of the Forest.

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.

“The Fremont-Winema is a spectacular forest, but the remoteness and rapidly changing winter weather and conditions brings more risk and increased potential for a dangerous situation to unfold,” 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 the Fremont-Winema National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/fremont-winema, follow the Forest on Twitter @FremontWinemaNF or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/R6FWNF.

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