Rec alerts: Some DNR-managed recreation sites to close for fall, winter seasons

August 22, 2014

Don’t let the end of summer recreation pass you by!

With Labor Day weekend coming up, some DNR-managed recreation campgrounds and recreation sites will close for the fall and winter seasons.

Cypress Island Campgrounds to close after Labor Day Weekend
Pelican Beach Campground and Cypress Head Campground will close after September 1 for the 2014 season. These campgrounds are the only places to camp in the Cypress Island Natural Resources Conservation Area, the largest relatively undeveloped island in the San Juan Islands.


Kayakers enjoy an evening paddle at Cypress Island, one of the many areas where campgrounds and other DNR recreation facilities close for the winter. Photo: Jason Goldstein.

Pelican Beach Campground is perfect if you like camping near the beach and campers can hike along Pelican Beach Trail to explore more of northern Cypress Island. A stay at Cypress Head Campground is perfect for exploring Cypress Island via the Cypress Head Trail.

Both areas will be open again Memorial Day Weekend.

Planning Ahead

If you’re planning to take advantage of the last few weeks of the summer season’s recreation, check the recreation open and closure webpage before you go.

Discover Pass Discover Pass logo
Remember to grab a Discover Pass to keep your recreation opportunities on DNR-managed land available season after season.

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Have you watered your trees lately?

August 21, 2014

The dog days of summer are still upon us. It’s a good thing we have trees to help keep us cool! Summer is a great time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the nice weather. But this month and next can be hard on trees, and they can use our help. Don’t be fooled by cooler weather. Cooler weather does not necessarily mean moisture.

In Washington, most of the annual accumulation of moisture comes in three seasons, fall, winter and spring. Summer is typically very dry. This weather pattern is great for vacatioTreens and back yard barbecues, but difficult for trees – particularly newly planted trees.

When we do get moisture, it may not be enough for our leafy friends, especially those planted within the last year or two. Even if you are watering your lawn on a regular basis, your trees might not be getting enough to drink. Grass roots, after all, only grow to a depth of several inches. In contrast, trees roots are deeper, from about 18” to 24” deep.

Long, slow watering under the drip-line of a tree with a soaker hose or even a bucket with small holes drilled into will ensure that moisture seeps down into the root zone.

Or build a low ring of dirt about 1 foot from the trunk of the tree to create a soil dam. With your hose turned on to a slow trickle, fill the tree ring with water (this will take about 30 minutes). Keeping the hose on a trickle will allow the water to soak in rather than run off, while the dam will keep the water directly over the roots of the tree.

Remember that a 2-4 inch thick layer of bark mulch around the base of a tree will maintain soil moisture and help control weeds, (but keep the bark about a hands-width away from the trunk).

There are many factors involved when considered how much and how long to water. Check out this article by Oregon State University Extension (OSUE) about watering trees and shrubs the right way, and how watering needs differ depending on soil texture.

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Take a trip to visit a mystic mounded prairie

August 14, 2014

Looking for something kid-friendly to do on DNR-managed conservation lands? Let their imaginations run wild on 637 acres of grassland mounds at the DNR Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve (NAP).

Mima Mounds

Camas blooms at the unique Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve managed by DNR. Photo: DNR/Birdie Davenport

Located next to Capitol State Forest near Olympia, Washington, Mima Mounds NAP protects the mounded Puget prairie landscape. Scientists differ on how the mounds formed; ice age flood deposits, earthquakes — even gophers — are among the formation theories offered.

Mima Mounds

Unique topography is one of the features of DNR’s Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve south of Olympia. Photo: DNR.

Rising to landmark status
In 1966, the National Park Service designated Mima Mounds a National Natural Landmark for its outstanding condition, illustrative value of a landform, rarity, and value to science and education. The site is one of 17 National Natural Landmarks in Washington state.

The NAP, established in 1976, includes native grasslands, a small Garry oak woodland, savannah (widely spaced oak trees with grass understory), Douglas-fir forest, and habitat for prairie-dependent butterflies and birds.

Unearthing site information and education

Mima Mounds Interpretive Center

Mima Mounds NAP has a lot of informational material for visitors to read while they’re there. DNR photo

Visitors to the site can stop at its interpretive center before stepping onto the trail that skirts around the mounds. The center provides historical and educational information about the site.

For those looking to get a better view of the area, a short set of stairs to the rooftop of the interpretive center provides a look from above.

Discover Pass logoDiscover Pass required
Don’t forget to grab your Discover Pass before heading out on this prairie
adventure. The Discover Pass is required to park a car at Mima Mounds NAP or anywhere in Capitol State Forest. This $30 annual access pass (or $10 day pass) is your ticket to Washington state great outdoors. All proceeds directly support state-managed outdoor recreation.

Adventure on!
Learn more about Mima Mounds NAP and other DNR adventures on our website at

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Today is National S’mores Day!

August 10, 2014

With a little creativity — and not much effort — delicious s’mores can be made without a campfire.

With a statewide burn ban in effect in Washington state, the campfire-roasted s’more is a no-go, but that just means you have to get a little more creative to enjoy this tasty treat properly… and safely. And what better time to do it than National S’mores Day (celebrated this year on August 10).

The s’more (consisting of a roasted marshmallow and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham cracker) has been around since at least 1927. Over the decades, people have developed plenty of new twists on making this traditional summer favorite without a campfire. Check out these s’mores dippers: just melt some chocolate, coat a graham cracker, and apply mini marshmallows. You can also enjoy watching your marshmallows grow huge as you create s’mores in the microwave. Or you could whip up a batch of s’more brownies. Who says you can only eat s’mores around a campfire?

Celebrate this National S’mores day with a unique, fun, and fire-safe s’mores treat.

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70 years of Smokey Bear, give him a birthday present he won’t forget!

August 9, 2014
Happy 70th Birthday Smokey Bear

Happy 70th Birthday Smokey Bear

Smokey Bear turns 70 years old this Saturday, August 9, and what better way to celebrate with him than helping to prevent wildfires.

This year, Washington state has experienced the worst wildfire ever in its history; the Carlton Complex fire destroyed at least 300 homes and scorched more than 255,000 acres.

Smokey has been working the prevention circuit since 1944, when the original bear cub deemed ‘Smokey’ was orphaned following a wildfire. Today, Smokey’s message about wildfire prevention is more important than ever.

Mother Nature has caused a lot of wildfires in Washington, but, according to Smokey, nine out of ten wildfires are human-caused. With Washington’s landscape so hot and dry this summer, a fire can start at the drop of any spark, cigarette or ember from a campfire or charcoal briquettes. So please be extremely careful and aware as you go outdoors.

More about Smokey Bear

Does Smokey have a middle name? No! Smokey Bear does not have a middle name. The ‘the’ was added to keep in time with the rhythm of the song.

Smokey Bear’s webpage offers numerous games to make fire prevention fun and educational.

The Dispatch Center takes a quick minute to celebrate Smokey's 70th birthday!

The Dispatch Center takes a quick minute to celebrate Smokey’s 70th birthday!

Whatever you do outdoors, please know that a statewide burn ban is in effect through September 30 on the more than 14 million acres of private and public land protected by DNR.

Many locations in eastern Washington have very high fire danger. Remember, if there’s ever any doubt as to whether you may have a campfire, contact your area’s DNR Region Office, fire district, or fire department to clarify specific regulations in that area.

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Defend your home from wildfire (Defienda su casa de incendios forestales)

August 6, 2014

Defend Your Home

Many people would like to live in a serene setting, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but not completely isolated from familiar conveniences. The housing market is responding to these desires by building new neighborhoods in the countryside – and scores of new home buyers are settling in each year. Unfortunately, this trend is happening as signs point to a warmer climate with more intense and frequent wildfires ahead.

How can you – as just one member of a community in an outlying area – prepare for the threat of wildfires?

You can clear out the brush, tree limbs and other woody material from along driveways and other access roads to your property. This firebreak may stop, or at least slow, an oncoming wildfire.

Protect your home by lopping off those pesky low-lying limbs from trees and removing flammable material from the grounds around your house. To some, a green lawn looks out of place around a rural home site, but it may just save your house from the worst of a wildfire. If you’re remodeling or building a new home, consider installing a metal roof and using other fire-resistant materials where possible.

Con la ayuda de La Comisión de Asuntos Hispanos del estado de Washington, DNR ha creado un volante en español que describe visualmente cómo crear un espacio de seguridad alrededor de las casas para ayudar a defenderlas de incendios forestales. (With the help of the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs, DNR has created a flyer in English & Spanish that tells how to create a space around homes that helps defend from wildfires.)

Here are tips to make the area surrounding your home into a defensible space more likely to resist wildfire.

Resources to help you defend your home

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More than just pretty to look at: trees remove pollution, help human health

August 4, 2014
Urban trees-bank parking lot

Image: Washington State Department of Natural Resources

We’ve said time and time again in this blog and that, “Trees are good!” Now we have more proof, thanks to a recently published study by the U.S. Forest Service.

Trees are saving more than 850 human lives each year and preventing 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in the U.S., according to the study — “Tree and Forest Effects on Air Quality and Human Health in the United States” — the first broad-scale estimate of air pollution removal by trees.

Looking at four common air pollutants — nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 microns — researchers valued the human health benefits of the reduced air pollution at nearly $7 billion annually. While trees’ pollution removal equated to an average air quality improvement of less than 1 percent, the impacts of that improvement are substantial. As expected, the pollution removal effect is substantially higher in rural areas (more trees) than in urban areas (fewer trees); however the effects on human health are substantially greater in urban areas because of the greater amounts of air-borne pollution and numbers of people affected.

Housed at DNR, the Washington Urban and Community Forestry Program promotes the economic, environmental, psychological, and aesthetic benefits of trees and helps local governments, citizen groups, and volunteers plant and sustain healthy trees where people live and work.

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DNR has many volunteer opportunities planned in August

July 31, 2014
DNR volunteer event

Popular trails get worn and become more susceptible to erosion. Volunteers help DNR stretch its scarce maintenance dollars to keep trails safe. Photo: DNR

Interested in recreation on DNR managed land, but not sure how to get involved? Luckily, DNR has all sorts of volunteer opportunities on deck for August and we would love to see you there.

DNR volunteers are vital to maintaining a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience for visitors to DNR’s recreation facilities and trails. This isn’t an easy feat, and DNR is blessed with many dedicated volunteers. In 2013, volunteers totaled 61,300 volunteer hours on recreation projects.

If you’d like to join in on the fun, check out some of DNR’s volunteer opportunities below. For more details and updates on all DNR recreation volunteer opportunities, visit our volunteer calendar.

August 2
Friends of Capitol Forest Monthly Work Party
Capitol State Forest
Time: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
What: Join DNR staff and volunteers from Friends of Capitol Forest for a work party to improve road crossing areas, remove wood supports on berms, and drainage. Kids are welcome! There is often a mountain bike ride after the work party.
Directions: (Map) Meet at the “Y” intersection of Waddell Creek Road and Sherman Valley Road.
Contact: Nick Cronquist, 360-480-2700

August 9
Walker Valley ORV Area Work
Where: Walker Valley
Time: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
What: Join DNR staff and other volunteers to help work on trails, clean ditches, haul gravel, brush trails, paint, pick up garbage, and more! No need to call first.
Directions: (Map) Meet at the Walker Valley Trailhead Information Kiosk: 18652 Peter Burns Rd., Mount Vernon, WA
Contact: Jim Cahill, 360-854-2874

August 16
Nicholson Horse Trails Work Party
Where: Sahara Creek Campground
Time: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
What: Please join DNR staff and Pierce County Chapter Back Country Horsemen to work on the Nicholson Horse Trails.
Directions: Start at Elbe. Go 5.3 miles on Hwy 706. Turn left into the site.
Contact: Nancy Barker, 253-312-4301

August 23
Reiter Foothills ORV Work Party
Where: Reiter Foothills Forest
Time: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
What: Join DNR staff to enhance the Motorcycle Trials trail area and work other ORV trail projects.
Directions: Drive East on Hwy 2 through the town of Gold Bar. Turn left onto Reiter Road. Continue for 3.8 miles. Deer Flats Mainline Road will be on your left. Meet at the Deer Flats Mainline Gate.
Contact: Daniel Christian, 360-333-7846

Need a Discover Pass?
If you don’t have a Discover Pass, DNR staff can provide you with one for the day you volunteer. These volunteer events are eligible toward a complimentary Discover Pass.

Before you go, make sure to check our open and closure notices page.

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The Yacolt Burn: A look back at Washington state’s second-largest wildfire

July 31, 2014
Douglas fir burn scars

Older Douglas-fir trees (center) still show burn scars from the massive Yacolt Burn wildfire of 1902 in southwest Washington state. Photo: Florian Deisenhofer/DNR.

With the Carlton Complex fire (now 67 percent contained) in Okanogan County officially the largest recorded wildfire in Washington State at more than 250,000 acres, it may be worth looking back at what was, until now, the state’s largest wildfire: the Yacolt Burn.

Known also as the “Big Burn,” the fire started on September 11, 1902, and burned across 238,920 acres in southwestern Washington. Strong easterly winds and dry weather allowed the fire to grow quickly. At the time there was no clear plan for dealing with wildfires, which further aided its growth. The speed with which the fire spread across Clark, Cowlitz, and Skamania counties surprised many people and gave them little time to evacuate. Thirty-eight people died as a result and many homes and buildings were destroyed.

This destructive fire ultimately led to increased and better-organized efforts to fight wildfires. The next several years would see the formation of new organizations to fight wildfire, new tactics, and the creation of a state fire warden’s office. Even today, 112 years later, the scars of that fire and subsequent wildfires can be seen at the Yacolt Burn State Forest, a 90,000-acre working forest and popular recreation area managed by DNR.

 Stay up-to-date on fire conditions with these important links:

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Use the nine “P’s of Preparedness” to get ready for major emergencies

July 29, 2014

Wildfires, floods, and other imminent hazards can lead local officials to issue evacuation orders. If you live in an area at high risk for any of these events, make sure you are prepared evacuate quickly and smoothly.

Here are the “P’s of Preparedness” to remember in case of an immediate evacuation:

  • People
  • Pets
  • Papers (important documents)
  • Phone numbers
  • Prescriptions (medications and glasses)
  • Pictures (and other mementos)
  • PCs (for the info stored on them)
  • Plastic (credit cards, cash)
  • Planning

Let’s talk about each point…    

Evacuating your family safely requires planning ahead. Know at least two routes out of your community. Know how to contact each other. Have an emergency kit with food and water. has many publications available to help you get ready for the threat of a fire. Practice evacuation drills and make sure that children know what to do in an emergency. FEMA has great guidelines to help you start your disaster plan and build an emergency preparedness kit.
 people image
Be ready to quickly transport your pets and have a plan for where they will stay if you cannot return to your house for a while.
 pets image
Keep deeds, birth certificates, vehicle titles, and other important documents in one location, and look through your papers frequently to make sure everything is up to date. Being able to grab everything important at once will make the evacuation go much smoother.
 papers image
Phone numbers
Make sure everyone in your family has access to important phone numbers. Try to keep cellphones charged and keep a backup hardcopy of all your phone numbers just in case.
 phone image
During an evacuation pharmacies and drug stores may be closed or out of the items you need. Keep extra medicine and prescriptions within easy reach as you hurry out the door. Put a special focus on any critical medications such as diabetes medication, asthma inhalers, and EpiPens.
 prescription image
Pictures and other mementos
Collect items that hold a lot of personal significance. In the unfortunate event that your house is lost or damaged in a fire, at least you won’t lose irreplaceable items, like family photos.
 pictures image
Personal computers (hard drives)
Computers store a lot of important information and personal items that you’ll want to keep. Be ready to unplug the computer box and take it with you. It also would be a good idea to make a digital copy of family photos, important documents, and business papers that can be downloaded onto an easy-to-carry flash drive or external hard drive.
 computer images
Plastic (credit cards and cash)
Keep credit cards on hand and store extra cash and checks with your evacuation kit. You may have to buy food, fill up your gas tank, or stay in a hotel.
 credit card image
Evacuating from your home and your community is stressful. If you have a clear plan for what to do (the Ps of preparation), the process will go easier for you and your family.
 Planning image
IMAGES: Pets designed by Anne Caroline Bittencourt Gonçalves, Document designed by Rob Gill, Cell Phone designed by Marwa Boukarim, Hash designed by Michael Rowe, Medicine designed by Emmanuel Mangatia, Picture designed by Ilias Ismanalijev, Computer designed by Simple Icons, Computer designed by Anton Outkine, Keyboard designed by Herbert Spencer, Credit Cards designed by Alex Auda Samora, Checklist designed by Maico Amorim. All images from


Visit the Ready, Set, Go! (RSG) Program for more information about wildfire safety and what you can do before a fire strikes to be prepared.

Check out the DNR Burn Map to view the fire danger in your area and stay connected with this year’s wildfire season on the DNR_Fire Twitter feed


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