When the Schneider Springs Fire, which has spread to more than 133 square miles of forestlands northwest of the Yakima Valley, closed recreational lands nearby, guides and rafters were uncertain the Tieton River rafting season would happen this year.
The threat to recreation, agriculture, and communities in Eastern Washington has increased as active wildfire season becomes more commonplace and less of an exception in recent summers.
The state Department of Natural Resources, state Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service were forced to restrict or close access to recreational trails and lands as the fires spread.
On Thursday, rafting guides celebrated when the U.S. Forest Service reopened several recreation areas closed during the wildfire, including the Tieton River.
Wildwater River Guides, Peshastin, began its twice-daily trips on Friday. They will continue until Sept. 19. These rafting trips were the company’s first on Tieton River for two years. Wildwater River Guides, like other rafting companies canceled or limited trips that required extensive travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While many will still enjoy their rafting trips on Tieton River, others won’t. In California, all national forests were closed last week, forcing many to forgo plans during the busy Labor Day weekend and for the next several weeks.
Liam Elio is the operations manager at Orion River Rafting Leavenworth. He said that due to rapid developments in wildfires, both good and terrible, it’s possible for trips to be cancelled or changed.