Locally owned. Supported by members.

‘Beat to a pulp:’ Forest managers try to keep up with challenges from influx of campers during pandemic

Regence Blue Shield Idaho
Future in Focus: McCall

Outdoor activities, especially camping, have become increasingly popular throughout the pandemic. 

[Boise startup launches all-in-one camper that fits in a pickup bed]

“We have definitely seen an increase in recreation on forest lands,” Erin Vonderheit, the program specialist at the Payette National Forest said. “And I know that specifically some other forests especially closer to big population areas, the Sawtooth’s specifically has seen a lot of just an exponential increase.”

Environmental issues 

An increase in campers led to various problems with the environment.

With forests seeing an influx in campers, many coming are first-time campers or are unfamiliar with camping etiquette.

- Story continues below ads -
BRR Careers
Paddles Up Poke

“Just an extraordinary amount of people out and about,” John Kidd, the district ranger at Lowman Ranger District said. “Probably our biggest issue is just our dispersed camping. And the impact we’re seeing both environmental and… I don’t know whether people don’t know the proper etiquette for camping, (but) what you do with your human waste, but that’s been our biggest issue.”

Kidd says the campgrounds are full near Lowman, and employees are overwhelmed. The area has dispersed campsites where a few people can pull over and camp. Now people are not following the site rules. 

“Our dispersed areas are just growing incrementally,” he said. “People are pushing out a little further than the roads were originally. So you know where we had maybe 10 campsites, now there’s 25 or 30. And we got people just pulling off the road because they can’t find camping spots.”

The issue is not people using unauthorized camping spots. The problem is, more people will follow and create their own spots and campfire rings. 

Camping etiquette and environmental problems are not happening exclusively in Lowman.

Some residents of the McCall area, like John Hendley from New Meadows, say that the damage done by this influx of campers is easy to see.

“We often find trash, toilet stuff not buried, smoldering fire pits,” he said.

Lasting impacts

The fires that are started and the trash people are leaving behind can have a long-lasting impact on the area. So rangers and other forest service workers have begun to workshop ideas and prevention of further damage. 

“At some point in time we’re going to have to look at either developing more campgrounds if this trend continues or hardening some of the dispersed sites and limiting how many people can go in there,” Kidd said. “We got two areas in particular that are just getting beat to a pulp. We’re going to have to close them down and give it time to rehab. Do some seeding and try to keep people out.”

Unfortunately, he says prevention and signs have not worked, and the area has just gotten worse. 

“Another thing is we put signs up,” he said. “Somebody wants to camp in an area and there’s a sign or they just pull a sign over the hill and pull in anyway and hope for the best. The increase in damage graffiti and all that kind of stuff is increasing too.”

For many, Labor Day signifies the start of the school year and the end of summer and camping season. This year, some rangers do not think camping season will end until snow hits the mountains. 

Love our stories? Get them delivered straight to your inbox each afternoon. Plus, support BoiseDev's independent journalism.

Autum Robertson
Autum is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Ketchum, McCall and general news. Contact her at autum@boisedev.com.

Tamarack Resort announces pass options and changes ahead of 2020-21 season

Tamarack Resort has announced its pass options and changes for the upcoming winter season.  Passes

Photo tour: Idaho 55 work zone down to one lane with machinery, rock in narrow canyon

Late last week, we drove through the Idaho Highway 55 canyon between Smith's Ferry and Round Valley. The Idaho Transportation recently...

Motel goes through remodel & makes COVID-safe changes

Almost two years ago, Kyle Enzler bought the Scandia Inn Motel. It started out as a hand-built motel in McCall in the...

Restaurants look for find COVID-safe solutions with colder weather quickly approaching

With colder weather on the horizon in Valley County, officials and business owners got together for a “restaurant roundtable.”

Popular

Les Schwab Tires, Idaho town staple, gains large new owner

The stores in Les Schwab country have a new owner. The Oregon-based tire chain went on the block last...

Large student apartment project turned down after McLean breaks city council tie

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean cast the deciding vote to turn down an upscale student housing project near Boise State University.  It's the...

You asked: Why is the Egyptian Theater boarded up?

If you've driven through Downtown Boise lately you might have noticed that the doors to the Egyptian Theater are boarded up.

Popular Idaho mountain hot springs goes up for sale

If you're someone who has thought about purchasing a hot spring, now may be the time to do it. 

Stalled Anthony’s restaurant restarts, announces opening date

Seafood lovers, rejoice! After putting construction on hold this Spring, construction resumes on Anthony's new restaurant in Downtown Boise.

Photo tour: Idaho 55 work zone down to one lane with machinery, rock in narrow canyon

Late last week, we drove through the Idaho Highway 55 canyon between Smith's Ferry and Round Valley. The Idaho Transportation recently...

Related

Latest

Boise State Public Radio receives million-dollar gift to help support local news

Boise State Public Radio announced it recieved the largest gift in station history - $1.1 million. The money came...

Eagle arcade closes, game machines sold and moved out

After seven years in business, Grinkers Grand Palace in Eagle will no longer welcome classic game players. The 80s-style...

You asked: Why is the Egyptian Theater boarded up?

If you've driven through Downtown Boise lately you might have noticed that the doors to the Egyptian Theater are boarded up.

Les Schwab Tires, Idaho town staple, gains large new owner

The stores in Les Schwab country have a new owner. The Oregon-based tire chain went on the block last...

Large student apartment project turned down after McLean breaks city council tie

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean cast the deciding vote to turn down an upscale student housing project near Boise State University.  It's the...

Sánchez proposes ordinance to separate residential & commercial rental deposits

Boise City Council is considering an ordinance to secure your rental security deposit.  City Council Member Lisa Sánchez brought...