Back in 2020, all dispersed camping (aka boondocking) in Oregon State Forests was temporarily closed as in early May due to excessive trash and human waste accumulation. According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, the closure lasted for several weeks until additional resources were brought on to sanitize the sites and make them safe for public use again.
Unlike campgrounds and RV parks, dispersed camping areas do not typically have restrooms or garbage disposal available. Campers, as always, are expected to take out everything they bring in (pack it in, pack it out) and to properly dispose of their waste. This is essential for the health and safety of other campers as well as the forests and the local wildlife.
“We have strived to continue to allow as much access to Oregon’s state forests as possible while ensuring everyone’s safety, including our staff,” State Forester Peter Daugherty said in the Department of Forestry’s recent news release. “Unfortunately, the current conditions are hazardous to the public and our employees. We appreciate the public’s understanding and look forward to reopening these areas as soon as we can safely do so.”
The closure applied to boondocking in the Tillamook, Clatsop, Santiam, Sun Pass, and Gilchrist state forests, as well as all other lands managed by the Oregon Department of Forestry. Forest roads and trails still remained open at that time.
ODF urges the public to keep these things in mind:
- No restrooms or garbage disposal sites are available. Leave no trace and take out everything that you brought in—including your boondocking trash.
- Human waste must be buried at least 6 inches underground and away from trails, parking areas, bodies of water, and any areas where people may be gathered.
- Continue physical distancing. Plan on maintaining a 6-foot distance from other people even when you’re outdoors and wear a cloth face covering if you’re interacting with others.
- Bring your own personal hygiene supplies. This includes TP, biodegradable soap, etc.
This is not the first time camping has been closed due to excessive trash. Even if you don’t live in Oregon or plan on camping in the forests here, closures will happen in your area too if trash becomes insurmountable. To keep this from happening, always leave your campsite better than you found it, even if it means grabbing an extra trash bag and picking up garbage you find that has been carelessly littered by someone else.