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Is this campground open? USFS says it’s closed, but some are using it anyway

Signs removed by people, technicality in reservation system causes confusion

(UPDATE: Adding video, comment from USFS official)

SUNRIVER, Ore (KTVZ) -- There's no barrier at the entrance to the Big River Campgrounds off Century Drive, near Sunriver.

There are a couple of tents and campers set up.

There's not much to stop anyone from camping there.

But the campground is closed.

"What we're seeing is a lot of the barriers get moved,” Lisa Machnik of the Deschutes National Forest said Wednesday. “Signs get torn down. Things get taken, things get destroyed."

Someone has ripped down the orange tape that's supposed to go across the entry to the campsite.

Looking at, the site make reservations for campsites, there are still open dates for the camp site.

That's despite the forest website listing the campground as closed.

In total, there are 10 closed campsites and four closed group sites on the Deschutes National Forest.

They are as follows:

  • Big River Campground
  • Big River Group Camp
  • Bull Bend Campground
  • Cultus Corral
  • Cow Meadow Campground
  • Fall River Campground
  • North Davis Creek Campground
  • Pringle Falls Campground
  • Sheep Bridge Campground
  • Reservoir Campground
  • Wyeth Campground
  • Contorta Point Group Campground
  • Simax Group Campground
  • Windy Group Campground
  • Scout Lake Campground

Machnik said the closures are because Deschutes Recreation is short-staffed.

"With the current health situation,” she said, “some of their typical folks that they would have staffing the campgrounds would be required to travel here, and made a choice that they weren't able to do so, or felt they were in a higher-risk category."

And the issue with the reservation system is that the campground is only in a "soft closure." Machnik said the dates are available, in case the campground gets enough staff to open.

If it doesn't, anyone with a reservation will receive an email notifying them of the cancellation.

"What people can do, when they get to a campground, if they have questions about the status of the site, if something looks off, the number for Deschutes Recreation should be on the kiosk at the site."

Bend / Central Oregon / Deschutes County / Government-politics / La Pine / Outdoors / Top Stories
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Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.



  1. We had the same thing happen in june at one of the newberry sites, website let us book but then a couple weeks later got an email saying it was closed

  2. The US Forest Service needs to have a name change to: US Office Service. The ‘closed’ campgrounds have been being used since June, with our without a desk jockey’s consent. The excuse we are given is Deschutes Recreation is short staffed?? Hmm. Some of the closed campgrounds were being cleaned up by the campers during their stays.

    Does the US ForOffice Service still want to enforce ‘illegal’ dispersed camping when they can’t handle their current assigned tasks?

    1. Everyone I know in USFS, including the LEOs, works hard and cares about their job. It’s easy to vilify an entire faceless organization controlled by the federal government, but don’t conflate that with the people who are doing the hard work of protecting our birthright.

  3. seriously. I’m not going to go off on the way things “used to be” but look at us. When and why did camping become so hard that required this much thought? It’s no wonder everyone you talk to is stressed out or sick. When I was a boy (70’s – 80’s) we used to leave from the Oregon coast after my father got off work on a Friday and drive four and a half hours to the cascade lakes and there would be a spot at Lava Lake or any of them….. ah, a paradise lost. I wish there was a solution (but there is not) for everyone needing that kind of recreation to have it without needing a computer science degree to navigate the lackluster websites of our different government agencies.

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