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COVID-19 Recreation Guidance

You can still get outdoors!

Generally, state and federal orders and guidelines related to social distancing still allow you to get outdoors and engage in physical activity and fun! However, there are a few details you should be made aware of related to closures of state and federal lands and facilities.

More Outdoor Recreation Opportunities Open Across Oregon and Washington as of May 15th.

On May 15th Oregon Governor Brown gave approval for 30 counties across mostly rural Oregon to enter Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan. This includes all of the counties in Eastern Oregon. Most state parks in Eastern Oregon are open for day use only. La Grande Parks and Recreation has opened its day use parks including Morgan Lake. Currently, Washington is in Phase 1 of its plan, which includes the opening of some state parks for day use and eased restrictions on outdoor recreation activities, such as fishing, hunting and golf. Recreation in the Columbia River Gorge is still prohibited on both sides of the river. Regional National Forests are open for recreation, but overnight “developed sites” like campgrounds and many restroom facilities are still closed.

Oregon and Washington State’s “Stay at Home-Stay Healthy” Order

In both Oregon and Washington outdoor exercise is seen as an “essential” activity and is permitted as long as you can maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet. It is recommended that you wear a mask when you cannot maintain 6 feet of spacing.

Oregon and Washington State Parks are Opening with Restrictions

Both Oregon and Washington are opening many of their state parks to day use, but still prohibiting overnight camping. In Oregon, find out which state parks are open at Oregon State Parks Status . Be sure to practice good hygiene and social distancing at any public outdoor recreation site. Here is another link of what to expect if you visit an Oregon State Park.

For Washington, be sure to visit the Washington State Parks website to see which state parks are currently open around the state. Most coastal state parks are still closed. All the state recreation sites along the Columbia River Gorge also remain closed. Washington state parks not closed are open to day use only.

US Forest Service National Forest Closures in the Pacific Northwest

While you can still recreate on federal lands like our national forests, most “developed” campgrounds and overnight accommodations are still closed on most national forests and BLM lands in Oregon and Washington. Developed sites are facilities like campgrounds that have substantial infrastructure like fire pits, restrooms, picnic tables, water, and RV access. This does vary by national forest and the BLM has differing restrictions. Luckily, for those of us in Eastern Oregon, there are a number of “undeveloped” sites and trails we can still access. These include Forest Service roads, trails, and dispersed campsites with no facilities like toilets or picnic tables. Be sure to check in directly with the ranger district where you are planning on recreating for specific restrictions. A good article on these restrictions can be found here – COVID-19 public land restrictions. Here are a few important specifics related to national forest closures in Oregon and Washington:

  • The entire Columbia Rive Gorge National Scenic Area is closed to both developed and dispersed recreation. This means NO recreating here at all.
  • Other national forests like the Deschutes, Umatilla, Wallowa-Whitman, and Mulheur have opened most of their land and facilities to day use, but overnight accommodations like developed campgrounds remain closed. Visitors can still access trails, roads, “undeveloped” campgrounds, and general forest lands.
  • The BLM is reducing its closures and restrictions at many of its “developed” sites in Eastern Oregon including boat ramps/launch sites, but campgrounds still remain closed. Be sure to check out this BLM site for up-to-date COVID-19 related news and district by district openings.

Around La Grande – Local COVID-19 Restrictions

  • City of La Grande: The City of La Grande has opened most of its parks including Morgan Lake to day use only. The skate park will be open, but the Veteran’s Memorial Pool will remain closed. There may be some use restrictions at each location so pay attention to and heed the instructions of any posted signs.
  • Mount Emily Recreation Area: The Mount Emily Recreation Area (MERA) managed by Union County is still open to day use, but the campground is closed. If recreating at MERA the county asks for you to follow the state guidelines on social distancing.