Hikers, campers, other visitors barred from Wenatchee River Ranger District north of Highway 2
“Severe” fire danger has prompted the Forest Service to forbid public entry to all National Forest lands north of U.S. Highway 2 in the Wenatchee River Ranger District, just east of Stevens Pass and the crest of the Cascade Mountains.
The district, in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, encompasses approximately 696,000 acres and extends from near the city of Wenatchee and the Columbia River to the crest of the Cascades in the Glacier Peak and Alpine Lakes wilderness areas.
“This is not a decision that has been taken lightly,” District Ranger Jeff Rivera said in a written statement Thursday. “Our primary concern is for public and firefighter safety.”
The closure will be lifted as soon as the unusual wildfire threat is abated, but rainfall predicted for this weekend probably will not be enough to end that threat, he said.
The closure is prompted by the expansion of the Wolverine wildfire in the Entiat Ranger District just north of the Wenatchee River district, Rivera said. “That fire has not crossed the Entiat ridge, but I want to be prepared.”
“This closure is necessary because firefighting resources are stretched so thin we can’t stand the risk of additional human-caused fires in the area,” Rivera said. Extended drought and extreme weather has led to major wildfires east of the Cascades and throughout much of the West.
The forest closure includes all National Forest lands in the Wenatchee River Ranger District north of Highway 2 except the district’s portions of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
“A lot of that trail is up high in the granite and it’s wetter up there so we deemed it safe,” Rivera said, noting that portions of the PCT are closed in ranger districts to the north and south (details at pcta.org/discover-the-trail/trail-conditions-and-closures).
Popular hiking and mountaineering areas encompassed by this closure include Chiwawa Ridge, Spider Meadow, Little Giant Pass, and Twin Lakes, north of Lake Wenatchee.
Most hiking trails south of Highway 2 remain open, such as the popular Enchantment Lakes area and other hikes south and west of Leavenworth.
“Businesses in the town of Leavenworth are still open and, so far, the air in this community has been remarkably free of smoke considering all the fires that are burning in Eastern Washington,” said Rivera, whose office is in Leavenworth.