Wilderness RegulationsWilderness is a Challenge, Responsibility, and Reward | Planning Your Trip What's burning in your camp fire? | Safe Boating Wilderness.net

Rogue Umqua Divide WildernessOne of our nation's greatest treasures is the National Wilderness Preservation System established by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Wildernesses are lands designated by Congress to be protected and preserved in their natural condition, without permanent improvements or habitation. 

The National Wilderness Preservation System provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude.

Please review regulations associated with Wilderness areas, and always use Leave No Trace techniques to help keep these areas wild, clean, and pristine.

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest wildernesses:

Wilderness is a Challenge, Responsibility, and Reward

  • Plan ahead, carry a map and compass, and have reasonable expectations for how far you expect to travel.
  • Trail signs are only installed at trail junctions, and usually provide only the trail number for direction. You are advised to bring a map of the area with you.
  • Pack animals are permitted, but be advised of difficulties, such as narrow trails, downed logs, and low hanging limbs.
  • Cross-country travel is not advised, due to heavy vegetation and steep slopes.
  • Often wilderness trails were built for other than recreation purposes and therefore are more primitive and difficult to travel on.
  • Follow Leave No Trace Backcountry Skills and Ethics!

Ethics are guidelines to follow when no one is watching.

  • Wildernesses are primitive places of great solitude and beauty.
  • The Forest Service employs wilderness rangers that people may see on occasion. Their duties include trail maintenance, campsite rehabilitation, as well as public information and education.
  • The Forest Service gathers information from wilderness visitors to monitor use, set work priorities, and plan for future management of the Wilderness. Please help us in this effort by voluntarily completing a visitor registration card available at major trailheads.
  • Be sure to check the trailhead bulletin board for current rules and other information pertaining to the wilderness. The complete management regulations enforced in the area may be reviewed at the Forest Supervisor or District Ranger offices.
  • Help us prevent the spread of Noxious Weeds in the wilderness, which once established can cause significant ecological impact. Before entering a wilderness, remove all possible seeds that might be lingering in your tents, backpacks, clothing (i.e. socks and boot laces), etc.

Planning Your Trip

Protective Clothing and Shelter
  • Frosty mornings occur and cold, rainy weather is possible during any month of the year.
  • Thunderstorms are not uncommon. They occur most often during late afternoon or evening hours. Avoid high points or exposed places during a lightning storm.
  • Warm dry clothing and a lightweight tent make any back-country trip more comfortable. They are a must for high elevation, wilderness travel.
During high winds, beware of falling limbs and trees.
Don't camp near snags.
Carry Water
  • Summer can be extremely hot - carry enough water and don't pass up springs and other opportunities to fill up! All water should be treated either by boiling, filtering or chemical methods. Water may be scarce in some places, especially along the ridges. Be sure to carry enough water for your needs.

!Water Warning !

Only water from developed system at National Forest recreation sites is maintained safe to drink. Open water sources, such as those in the Wildernesses, are easily contaminated by human or animal waste (for example, Giardia can be present). Water from springs, lakes, ponds, and streams should not be consumed without proper treatment. A recommended method of treatment is to bring water to a rolling boil for 5 minutes.

Be Aware - Bears, Bugs, Snakes, and Poison Oak
  • If you don't keep a clean camp, a black bear might make an unwelcome night time visit. Keeping and leaving a clean camp will lessen the possibility of bear problems, ranging from ripped tents and packs to close personal encounters.
  • Mosquitoes and "noseeum" midges can be expected from snow melt time in the early summer to the first cold nights of fall.
  • Yellow jackets can be encountered anywhere in the forest, and they are particularly attracted by cooking scraps or food that is left uncovered.
  • If you camp away from rotten logs, you shouldn't have problems with scorpions or spiders.
  • Check yourself for ticks after going through brushy areas.
  • Rattlesnakes and poison oak both occur in the Wilderness.
Be in Good Physical Condition
  • A hiker in good condition will average a maximum of 10-15 miles per day. Those not used to hiking should not plan on more than 5 to 10 miles. Stock users should always be aware of the special needs of their animals when in a wilderness setting.
Hunting, Fishing, and Provisions
  • Don't plan to live off the land. Survival foods do not exist in abundance. Berries are seasonal. Fishing can be poor much of the season (depending on where you are going in the Wilderness, either an Oregon or a California fishing license is required). Hunting of game mammals and game birds also requires a State license. Shooting of most non-game animals (for example, hawks or songbirds) is illegal and it destroys what others value.

  • There are no stores, gas stations, or other commercial services in the vicinity of the Wilderness. Side trips to these places are impractical unless you have a vehicle at the trailhead. Horse feed can be scarce in Wilderness and the few meadows are easily damaged by over-grazing; carry grain or pellitized feed for livestock.

  • The use of loud radios and other audio devices inside the Wilderness intrudes on the experience of other visitors. Please be considerate of others.
  • Dogs can cause problems with wildlife, pack-and-saddle stock and other dogs, and they may be annoying or threatening to other visitors. Because of these potential conflicts - and because the dry, rocky trails of the area can be hard on a pet - consider leaving your dogs at home. If you must bring your dog with you, keep it under control at all times.

  • Dogs must be under the control of their owner. A dog out of control is defined as: an unleashed dog more than 10 feet from its owner and not immediately responsive to voice commands, or a dog chasing wildlife or livestock, digging up burrows, or disturbing other visitors.

  • Gunfire is prohibited close to trails and camping areas or across lakes. Although target practice can be appropriate elsewhere on National Forest land, target shooting inside the Wilderness intrudes on the experience of other visitors.
Campfires and Cooking
  • California requires a State campfire permit between May 1 and October 31 (available free at the Siskiyou Mountains and Wild Rivers Ranger District offices).
  • In the traditionally popular camping areas, you should expect that the ground has been picked clean of suitable wood for campfires. For this reason visitors should carry a small "backpack" cook stove that uses alcohol, propane, or white gas.
  • If you decide a fire is appropriate and necessary...
    • Be aware of all current fire regulations for the area
    • Use an existing fire ring
    • Use only dead and down wood
    • Use small sized wood, small enough to break by hand
    • Burn down all wood to white ash
    • Remove charcoal (when out), crush and scatter over large area away from camp
    • California requires a State campfire permit between May 1 and October 31 (available free at the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District office).
  • For remote "pristine" areas without sign of fire:
    • Do not create a new fire scar if at all possible
    • Best choice is to use a portable camp stove with portable fire pans
    • Mound fires (a special technique which requires following specific techniques are best). Pit fires are no longer recommended. Research shows they kill vegetation and cause noticeable depressions.
Finding Your Way
  • Signs are kept to a minimum inside the Wilderness; generally they give destinations at trail junctions but provide little other information. To help keep yourself oriented, bring along a copy of the Wilderness map or a Ranger District topographic map which can be purchased at local Forest Service offices. If you should become lost in the Wilderness, traveling downhill or downstream along watercourses will eventually bring you to a trail or road.
Emergency Considerations
  • There are no established search and rescue organizations in the vicinity. Forest Service patrols may be encountered anywhere in the area, but they cannot be located at any fixed stations.

  • It makes good sense to bring a small "survival kit" on any back-country trip. Important items would include: map, compass, flashlight, waterproof matches or lighter, candle or fuel tablets, first aid kit, pocket knife, and a whistle (series of three blasts signifies "help").

Trail Tips
  • Short cutting of switchbacks causes erosion; stay on the trail. Travel single file in the center of the trail.
  • Hikers: You should yield the right-of-way to pack or saddle animals. Always have your dog on a leash and keep them as quiet as possible around pack and saddle animals. Talk in a normal, calm tone-of-voice to the riders as they first approach. The animals will then see and hear you in advance, rather than being surprised and scared by you. Slowly and steadily, step off the trail a safe distance. If the riders talk to you as they pass by, engage in the conversation; avoid sudden movements or loud noises.
  • If you travel cross country, stay to the rocky or timbered areas and avoid moist meadows or other places where your footprints could create a new trail.
  • Wilderness areas have unique botanical resources and they are appreciated by all visitors; don't pick the flowers or collect plants.
  • The choice of campsite is the most important decision you will make in the wilderness. Pick a spot that is out of sight of trails or other camps, that can stand the use and treat it well during your stay.
  • Meadows, lakeshores, and stream sides are easily disturbed. Make camp on level ground away from these fragile areas, and restrict your impact to as small a site as possible.
  • Use portable stoves for cooking. If a fire is really necessary, keep it small. (Big "all-night" campfires have been traditional with American campers for generations, but in the high elevation forest, they can consume far more firewood than is produced each year.)
  • If you must build a new fire mound, disassemble it and scatter the ashes before you break camp.
  • Be easy with the trees...never chop or saw on standing trees, snags or even down logs that are larger in diameter than you arm (larger snags and logs are often home for wildlife).
Winter Use
  • Because of inaccessible trailheads, deep snow, high elevations, and steep terrain, most of the wildernesses on the Forest receive very little, if any, winter use. Persons trying to access a wilderness between November and April may face severe conditions completely on their own.

  • Sky Lakes Wilderness has some limited back-country skiing, by expert and well-equipped skiers at the southern end, near and on the slopes of Mt. McLoughlin.


What's Burning in Your Campfire? Garbage In, Toxics Out

Describes the results of an informal study during which samples of smoke and ash were collected from two camp-fires that just burned wood and 27 camp-fires that burned specific items of garbage in addition to the wood. Some of the items of garbage included plastic bags, disposable batteries, a fishing rod, a colored cardboard box, and the foil packaging used for freeze-dried foods. Even campfires that just burn wood release a significant amount of air pollutants, but when garbage is added to a campfire, the levels of many harmful air pollutants increase. The ash from a campfire that just burns wood primarily contains materials that are not toxic. When garbage is added to the campfire, increased levels of toxic materials are left in the ash.

Safe Boating

Visit the Oregon State Marine Board. The Marine Board registers boats and provides boating safety education, law enforcement, and facilities such as launch ramps, restrooms, and parking lots. The Marine Board's goal is to help boaters have a safe, enjoyable time on the water.

Each party member should:

  • Wear a US Coast Guard approved Personal Safety Device (life jacket) rated Type III or Type V.
  • Cary a comprehensive first aid kid.
  • Carry at least one spare set of oars or breakdown paddles.
  • Keep other party members in sight while boating.
  • Make helmets a part of your river wardrobe.

Search and rescue costs can become the responsibility of the individual rescued. Make sure your party has experienced boaters and self-rescue plans in case someone gets into trouble.


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