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National Forests caution visitors about spring weather conditions

Contact(s): Darcy Weseman, (541) 278-3722, Katy Gray, (541) 523-1246, Mike Stearly, (541) 575-3144

Forest travel on wet, muddy or snow-covered roads can cause serious resource damage and safety concerns

John Day, Pendleton, and Baker City, Ore. – The winter snow is receding and spring fever has many people excited to get outside and explore the forests.  Though snow may have thawed from the foothills, forest officials are warning that most forest roads are still not accessible due to mud, snow or snow drifts.  In addition, traveling on thawing, saturated, and muddy roads can result in resource damage and serious safety concerns, especially if visitors are unprepared.

“We typically see multiple incidents this time of year where families head up for the day, get stuck, and end up spending the night or making a very long hike out to look for help,” said Lisa Rynearson, Safety Officer for the Malheur National Forest. 

This can become a serious situation quickly, particularly if travelers are not prepared for the elements. Many places in the Blue Mountains have limited or no cell phone coverage, so forest visitors should always be prepared to spend the night in the forest with warm clothing, food and plenty of water.  “Before you head out, always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return,” added Lee Mercer, Safety Officer for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. 

Public safety is not the only concern this time of year.  Forest officials are encouraging the public to minimize impacts to natural resources from travel on roads that are susceptible to rutting due to warmer weather and melting snowpack.  “Our Forests see increased resource damage each spring by mudding or mud-bogging activities,” said Mercer.   Whether someone gets stuck in the mud while sightseeing or by intentionally “mudding”, both leave behind scars on the land and frequently cause long-term resource and erosion issues.  Damaged areas also provide seedbeds prime for noxious weeds and other invasive plants that are difficult to control.

Not only is mud bogging extremely damaging to the land, it’s illegal.  It is unlawful to operate a vehicle on or off-road in a manner which damages or unreasonably disturbs land and vegetation.  This type of activity can result in an arrest and/or a fine, with assessed restitution if convicted.

Forest Officials remind users that some roads remain seasonally closed for wildlife or resource concerns in spite of early access.  Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs) display the open and seasonally open road system on the Umatilla National Forest.  MVUMs are free and can be picked up at any Umatilla National Forest office or downloaded from the forest website.  Cross-country travel is prohibited under the forest’s travel management plan.

 “We encourage forest users to responsibly enjoy their National Forest roads and trails. Responsible use will not only avoid further damage of the resources, but also ensure that there are future riding opportunities across the Forest,” said Slater Turner, Umatilla National Forest Supervisor. “Please, be a responsible forest user and always stay on designated roads and trails.”

For more information on forest road conditions, please contact one of the National Forest offices listed below.

Malheur National Forest:

(541) 575-3000


Twitter: @MalheurNF

Umatilla National Forest:

(541) 278-3716


Twitter: @UmatillaNF


Wallowa-Whitman National Forest:

(541) 523-6391


Twitter: @WallowaWhitman