Washington And Oregon Close State Parks Over…Well, You Know By Now

Palouse Falls State Park is home to Washington's official state waterfall -- and large crowds in the spring runoff season.
Washington is closing state parks like Palouse Falls and other public lands and access points due to coronavirus closures more widely in the state. Campgrounds in the parks were previously closed, and will remain shuttered until April 30. CREDIT: Tom Banse/N3

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Updated March 25, 2020, 9:05 a.m. PT

You’ll have to put off your favorite hike on Washington public lands for at least two weeks. State-managed parks and wildlife areas are closing starting Wednesday, March 25.

The Department of Natural Resources is closing all public lands it manages starting Thursday, March 26.

Closing state campgrounds was the first step. But over the weekend, crowds continued to gather at popular hiking spots – not taking note of six-foot social distancing guidelines to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Now, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and State Parks and Recreation Commission are closing the gates to parks, wildlife areas and water access areas. All campgrounds will be closed through April 30.

On 5.6 million acres of Department of Natural Resources lands, enforcement officers can issue citations to people who refuse to leave during the two-week closure. DNR manages lands that include trails, water access sites and hunting areas.

The closure includes trails, water access sites and wildlife areas. WDFW is also canceling all planned razor clam digs.

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz says, initially, people had expected it would be good for families to get outdoors, as closures around the state increased. But that wasn’t the case.

“Unfortunately, the way our trails are designed and the limited number of recreation areas we have – compared to people who want to enjoy them in times like this – it means there isn’t an ability to create a six-foot distancing. We can’t draw the lines like our grocery stores have on the ground and keep people apart,” Franz said.

“We are now seeing that we are threatening peoples’ lives by just having these areas be open for them to enjoy,” she continued.

Franz said the two-week closure could be extended, depending on the situation and Gov. Inslee’s orders.

Timber harvests and agricultural lands on DNR-managed property will still be considered “essential functions” and will be able to operate. Workers will have to comply with social distancing guidelines.

All state parks in Oregon closed Monday, which will last until May 8. Idaho has closed its visitor’s centers, yurts and other shelters. State parks there remain open for camping and day uses.

National Parks in Washington and Oregon closed to comply with each state’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. Mount Rainier National Park closed all park roads to public vehicles, although the backcountry will remain open “for dispersed recreation in accordance with the latest federal, state, and local health guidance.” 

In Oregon, Crater Lake National Park closed to all visitors beginning Tuesday, with the exception of Oregon State HIghway 62, which runs through the southern edge of the park.

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