Memorial Day brings out the best in the Inland Northwest - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Memorial Day brings out the best in the Inland Northwest

SPOKANE, Wash. - Affordable gas prices, good weather and the current economic uncertainty mean that local getaways might prove very attractive for people hoping to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend away from home. Shorter low-cost escapes like camping and boating will be especially popular, according to area campground managers. AAA estimates an increase in travel nationwide and local managers with the travel agency concur, saying that any local congestion caused by construction won't hinder travel plans.

Putting the emphasis on local destinations, there are dozens of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors within a few short hours of Spokane. In fact, some of the best outdoor activities can be found just across the state line in North Idaho. If camping isn't your choice there are several other activities to enjoy in the Inland Northwest, including hiking, fishing and wildlife viewing on some of the states many scenic byways.

Brian White, outdoor recreation planner for the Bureau of Land Management in Couer d'Alene says, "With weather looking very nice over the weekend, we expect all of our sites to be very busy if not at capacity by Saturday mid-day." That's good news for people who enjoy a busy camping experience; however it could make it difficult to find that ideal spot. In fact White recommends that people leave home with "Plans B and C" if their initial camping choice is full or unavailable.

Staffers with the Colville National Forest say that it's okay to send family ahead to reserve a spot, but be sure you maintain your campsite and don't leave any gear unattended. Speaking to The Spokesman-Review, forest spokesman Franklin Pemberton said abandoning property in the national forest is illegal.

There is also a capacity limitation facing would-be campers. In Washington some of the most popular campgrounds are located above 3,500 feet and are still inaccessible because of snow. In fact in North Idaho there is still enough snow in the mountains to allow for a special Memorial Day weekend of skiing at Silver Mountain Resort.

For local boaters there is a wealth of opportunities in the region, ranging from lakeside campgrounds at the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area  to boat camping on Lake Coeur d'Alene. The Bureau of Land Management Coeur d'Alene region is home to seven boating sites that include developed boat-ramp launch sites as well as boat-in only locations.

If you choose to boat in Idaho, be sure that you're compliant with the Idaho Department of Agriculture's new invasive species decontamination requirements for your vessel. To prevent the spread of species like mussels into regional waterways Idaho now requires all boats more than 10' long to be certified as invasive-species free. That certification comes with a decal for your vessel that can be obtained at online through Idaho State Parks or at any state park office. Only inflatable, non-motorized vessels less than 10 feet long are exempt.

If you're interested in taking your boat out fishing, head to North Idaho to experience some of the region's 11,000 miles of perennial streams. According to the Bureau of Land Management, about 129 miles of those streams are available on BLM land, with an additional 263 lakes providing habitat for 37 different species of fish.

Across the border the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office has launched a new boating website just in time for the Memorial Day holiday. Meant to be a clearinghouse for boaters, the website links to information including regulations and licensing, according to Susan Zemek with the Recreation and Conservation Office.  It also links to the following: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Department of Natural Resources; Department of Licensing; Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development; and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, as well as federal government, non-profit, and private organizations.

This weekend's travel opportunities also come with a warning. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources says that it hopes people enjoying Memorial Day weekend also use caution when it comes to potentially dangerous fire conditions. Wildfire season officially began in Washington on April 15 but the state has already experienced some 70 small wildfires prompting Commissioner of Public Lands to say, "Whether you are hiking or riding on DNR-managed lands, please be safe and use caution around fire." DNR says that before you burn anything you should be sure to call 1-800-323-BURN (2876) or head to the fire danger website to find out about burning conditions and bans.

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