Ranger District gearing up for spring, summer

With the advent of spring, Sweet Home Ranger District officials are gearing up for a busy summer season.

“Planning is under way to reopen our campgrounds,” Public Affairs Specialist Jennifer O’Leary said. “These recreation areas we know draw a lot of attention in the spring and summer months.”

District officials are completing maintenance at those sites and assessing winter damage, she said.

“A lot of our roads, particularly at the higher elevations, have been snowed out,” she said. “And many still are.”

As the snow melts, the district’s road crews will assess and repair winter damage and possible slides, making sure the road system is open and safe for travelers, she said. The same thing goes for the trails system, especially popular trails, like Iron Mountain.

The district has completed most of the work on a new viewing platform, which replaced the old lookout. A few more tasks remain to be completed there, O’Leary said, but officials are anticipating opening it to the public this spring.

Getting this work, particularly trails, done is important in preparation for spring and summer recreation programs, she said. “These are opportunities to get out and enjoy the forest in a comfortable setting.”

Officials are finalizing the district’s schedule of events right now, she said. It should be final in a couple of weeks. During most of the events, Forest Service staff guide visitors on hikes and other activities, such as rock hounding.

Activities tentatively start off with an Over the Rivers Through the Woods Scenic Byway Tour on May 7 and Free Fishing Day on June 6.

Other events include bird watching; hikes on the Santiam Wagon Road, Twin Buttes, Iron Mountain to Tombstone Pass, Three Pyramids, Browder Ridge, Echo Basin, Lava Flats Loop, Silver Lake to Middle Pyramid, Cascadia Cave; the annual Civilian Conservation Corps picnic and a four-day heritage expedition, “Gordon Short and the CCCs;” and streamside rock hounding.

Fall opportunities include a couple of planned mushroom hikes.

Sweet Home Ranger District also is busy getting ready for fire season, O’Leary said. “We’re beginning to put together the north zone (Sweet Home and Detroit ranger districts) fire crew.”

Once the fire crew is hired and assembled, the new firefighters will attend fire school here in Sweet Home with crews from around the state.

In natural resources, the district is continuing timber sales in the Canyon Creek area, said Donna Short, department head in charge of timber sales and restoration planning. This year, the district will do thinning in natural stands in Canyon Creek.

This also is the year for the biannual burning of Camas Prairie near Cascadia, she said. In a similar project, probably in late September, “we’re going to be burning Browder Ridge.”

It’s a similar process, but for different reasons, she said.

The Camas Prairie is burned as a cultural program with the Siletz Indians. Camas bulbs were a staple for the Calapooia Indians. Burning the fields is part of the cultivation process.

Browder Ridge will be burned to produce meadowland, Short said. There is a meadow there, but the forest is encroaching.

The district also is working through a National Environmental Policy Act document to allow it to close several mines this year.

“We have old mines from back in the day,” Short said. “I think they were gold mines originally,” from when Quartzville had a lot going on in the early 1900s.

They’re mostly small openings that people shouldn’t be in, Short said. The timbers are deteriorating inside them, and they’re not safe.

They’re fascinating from a historical perspective, O’Leary said, but public safety is the issue.

“We’re excited about spring,” she said. “We’re excited people will have the opportunity to come out and enjoy spring and summer activities on the forest, maybe try some new activities.”

For more information, maps, trail and field guides, contact the district office at 367-5168.