Serving Franklin County, WA

Say goodbye to camping at Vernita

Like Palouse Falls camping prohibition in 2022, state officials cite overcrowding, habitat protection

VERNITA - If you like spending a week or more fishing for salmon and camping on the Columbia River adjacent to Vernita Bridge, your days are numbered.

On Monday, June 17, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife announced plans to limit the number of days fishermen can camp at the water-access area just upstream the bridge during fall salmon seasons in 2024 and 2025.

During the fall salmon season, fishermen will be allowed to camp a maximum of 14 days each of the next two years and will be restricted to specific camp areas, according to agency employees. Camping will be illegal outside of salmon season.

In 2026, the agency plans to make it permanently illegal to camp at the Vernita Bridge Water Access Area, adjacent to and upstream of the bridge along state Highway 243.

Agency employees will be assigned to patrol the area for violators.

The federal Department of Energy oversees the publicly owned property; the state Department of Fish and Wildlife assists with management under a federal permit.

State officials say the move to end camping is necessary to protect habitat and align with Fish and Wildlife management plans. Agency South-Central Region 3 Director Mike Livington added that camping has become unsustainable.

"In the interest of environmental preservation and public benefit, conservation, and safety goals, we are making changes to how people use the Vernita area," he said, noting the agency is hoping to come up with a new camping option.

Just like Palouse Falls

But that's the same thing state officials said when they made it illegal to camp at Palouse Falls two years ago.

When the campground at Palouse Falls was closed in 2022, Washington State Parks officials cited overcrowding and habitat protection as the reasons for the shutdown.

State Parks officials also promised to open a new campground nearby.

To date, however, no new campground has opened and state officials now say it may take a decade before fulfilling its promise to develop a new campground.

Author Bio

Roger Harnack, Publisher

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Roger Harnack is the co-owner/publisher of Free Press Publishing. Having grown up Benton City, Roger is an award-winning journalist, photographer, editor and publisher. He's one of only two editorial/commentary writers from Washington state to ever receive the international Golden Quill. Roger is dedicated to the preservation of local media, and the voice it retains for Eastern Washington.


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