One of the largest draws to Central Oregon is the access to some of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the country. In January 2017, the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests began analyzing strategies for managing visitor use in five Central Oregon Cascades wildernesses to address resource impacts and to maintain wilderness character. As Central Oregon continues to grow in popularity as an outdoor vacation destination, our wilderness areas have experienced an impact.
Central Cascades Wilderness Strategies Project
The goal of the Central Cascades Wilderness Strategies Project is to sustain recreational use in five wilderness areas in Central Oregon while ensuring future generations can experience the natural and undeveloped qualities of these areas. The five areas include Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, Three Sisters, Diamond Peak and Waldo Lake.
Throughout the process, the Forests will engage local communities and communities of interest to bring the public’s energy and ideas into balancing environmental, social and economic components of sustainability. Deschutes National Forest and Willamette National Forest both see this project as integral to implementing sustainable recreation.
These wilderness lands offer visitors a wealth and variety of recreational activities and opportunities. Increased recreation use of these areas has caused damage to high-elevation riparian and meadow vegetation through overcrowding, overnight camping, human and dog waste, trail bed expansion and trail braiding. These areas continue to face increased recreational demands that can degrade natural resources and impact the wilderness experience.
Plan Ahead for Summer Recreation in Wilderness Areas in Central Oregon
Starting this summer, each person visiting the trails outlined by the Forest Service will need to obtain their own day-use permit. For example, in the Three Sisters Wilderness, 10 trailheads require a day-use permit. Visitors staying overnight will need an overnight permit, which is issued per group. The final decision from the Forest Service includes 19 of 79 trailheads requiring day-use permit quotas, rather than the originally proposed 30 trailheads.
The new quota and permit system go into effect this summer, with permits required from the Friday before Memorial Day weekend through the last Friday in September. Permits will be available on Recreation.gov beginning April 7, 2020. If you plan on hiking Broken Top, for example, this summer, be sure to request your day-use permit early in order to guarantee your spot and view the beauty of Central Oregon from it’s highest peaks.
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