BROOKINGS — Forest Service crews have cleared enough hazard trees from the sides of the Chetco River Road to open Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest boat ramps and recreation areas on the Chetco.
The forest announced Tuesday that Redwood Bar and South Fork Bluffs Camping Area are now open for day use for the first time since they were closed in summer during the Chetco Bar fire.
Now that entire stretch of the Chetco that's most popular with winter steelhead anglers is open, with the steelhead season start right around the corner.
"That's one of our primary goals — to get that open before the steelhead season," says Dave Sheehan, the district's recreation program manager.
Closures to the national forest recreation sites have been a testy topic on the South Coast. Miller Bar was opened to day use and boat launches Oct. 10, and Nook Bar opened Nov. 2, Sheehan says.
"As we've been taking out the hazard trees, we've been opening the recreation areas as we go," Sheehan says.
The upper stretches of the Chetco are popular for driftboat anglers to get away from lower river stretches that are more popular and congested. Also, only 26 fishing guides and outfitters have permits to take clients in the national forest stretch, while other guides must stay downstream of the Forest Service boundary.
Sheehan stresses that the recreation areas are open for day use only, and there remains a closure on overnight camping.
Also, there are still roads and recreation sites closed due to fire activity and the need for removal of burned hazard trees. Those areas include Little Redwood Campground, Packers Cabin, Snow Camp Lookout and all trails within the newly revised closure area, according to forest spokeswoman Chamise Kramer.
A map of the closure area can be found on the forest's website at www.fs.usda.gov/rogue-siskiyou/.
More areas will be opened as post-fire hazard mitigation is completed, Kramer says.
Lightning strikes deep in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area July 12 ignited what grew into the Chetco Bar fire, which was the largest wildfire of 2017 in Oregon and at one time was considered the top priority among all wildfires throughout the country.
The fire was officially declared contained Oct. 31 at 191,125 acres.