Test-drive family camping at Collier State Park

    New or rusty campers who want to test-drive a night in a tent with their family can do so at Collier State Park in Klamath County under a state program looking to help families discover the joys of camping.

    They likely will have to cook their s'mores over crackling briquettes thanks to a ban on campfires and other flames in state parks due to fire season, but other than that, all systems will be go.

    The Oregon State Parks Department's expanding "Lets Go Camping" program will set up shop on the banks of the Williamson River Friday-Sunday, Aug. 28-30, offering loaner gear and volunteer help for campers.

    "For some people, they want to start doing what they think of as camping-camping, not cabin-camping," says state parks spokesman Chris Havel. "Some people really are starting at ground zero, so we really want to make it as fun and easy for them as possible."

    For $30 per family, the parks department provides tents, sleeping bags and other gear. Volunteers will help campers set up tents, build cooking fires, prepare meals in the campsite and more.

     In many cases, that's what they'd spend just for two nights of camping with their own gear.

    In this case, participants will be camping along the confluence of the Spring and Williamson rivers in Klamath County. The weekend will include tours of a nearby historic logging museum, fishing opportunities for the Williamson's legendary rainbow trout and a tutorial on the art of making s'mores.

    What they probably won't learn, however, is how to build the perfect campfire to cook them.

    On Wednesday state parks officials banned campfires at all its holdings and on ocean beaches over fear that an accidental fire at a campground could heavily burden already overtaxed firefighting crews battling blazes here and throughout the West.

    The ban includes fire pits, tiki torches and candles. It also includes ocean beaches because they are managed by the state parks department.

    "Even where it's cool out, it's so dry it's frightening," Havel says. "The last thing we want to do is evacuate a campground because of a fire."

    The ban does not include propane stoves and charcoal briquettes for cooking. But those could be banned based on regional restrictions, Havel says.

    The ban will be revisited next Wednesday, so it's possible that campfires could be back on the agenda for the Collier weekend, Havel says.

    To register for the camping weekend at Collier, go online at oregonstateparks.org and click on the "Things to Do" icon, or call 888-953-7677.


    Dread and Terror segment closed for bridge work

    There will be a little less dread and terror along the Dread and Terror portion of the 13-mile-long North Umpqua Trail for the next two weeks while a log bridge is replaced.

    A 75-foot-long, 5-foot-wide log that for 20 years has served as a footbridge over the North Umpqua River will be replaced by a steel truss bridge at a cost of slightly less than $250,000, says Julie Merritt, bridge engineer for Umpqua National Forest.

    The log has rotted, and the abutment has decayed, so it is in need of replacement, Merritt says.

    While the work is done, that section of the trail will be off limits through Sept. 7, Merritt says. During the closure, there will be no through-hiking on the trail, but access on either side of the project will remain open, she says.

    The new bridge will be about 2.5 miles west of the White Mule trailhead and 11 miles east of the Umpqua Hot Springs trailhead. Trail users will be able to reach Lemolo Falls from the White Mule trailhead or the Lemolo Falls Trail #1468. Columnar Falls and Surprise Falls can be reached from the Umpqua Hot Springs trailhead.

    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

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