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Changes to rivers & access due to COVID-19

Rivers may provide respite from risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic, however river permits, management, amenities and access are being reviewed and changed to encourage and administer social distancing protocols. This list serves to inform managers and paddlers on known changes and closures to river access in the United States. This list is NOT exhaustive. Please share changes or additions to RMS by e-mailing [email protected] 

Our friends at American Whitewater have partnered with Outdoor Alliance to create guidance for paddlers during the pandemic. From AW: This is an important time for paddlers to be a part of the solution to both help slow the spread of COVID19 and advance stewardship efforts for your favorite rivers. The first step is simple - stay in your zip code. A short abstinence from paddling outside your neighborhood can save lives and keep the delicate balance that ensures enough water to boat and river access in many rural communities from shifting in the wrong direction. Maintaining constructive relationships with communities where we recreate is in our long-term interest as we work with them to improve the health of rivers and our opportunities to enjoy them. Read more here: https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Article/view/articleid/34424/

Help us grow this resource for Social Distancing, Sanitizing and other Safety Guidance, Tips, and Checklists  
Changes to Managed Rivers
  • AuSable (MI) - Not closed, but services are reduced. 
  • American River (CA) - Closed until June 7.  No services or toilets (J. Walstrom 5-3)
  • Middle Fork American River 
  • North Fork American River - Not closed to boating, but parking is closed by State Parks.
  • South Fork American River - Chili Bar Section is not closed to boating: private boater put=in is open 
  • Gorge Section- Not closed to boating however the takeouts are closed to parking by State Parks and will have to carry boats a good distance to a parked vehicle.
  • Big South Fork Cumberland River
  • Chattooga River
    • All boat landings on rivers, lakes and navigable waterways on the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests are temporarily shut down effective April 2, 2020. Please check the following link to the Chattahoochee Oconee Forest for area closures to Chattooga put-ins: www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/conf/alerts-notice 
  • Cheaoh River
    • April scheduled releases have been cancelled. Goal is to reschedule them for later in the year.
  • Colorado River - Grand Canyon National Park
    • Grand Canyon National Park is extending the suspension of administrative, research, private and commercial river rafting trips through June 13, 2020, in order to comply with the local health guidance to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

    • Resumption of river trips will be evaluated periodically to provide up to 30 days advance notice to allow companies and private boaters time to adjust travel arrangements and prepare for trips. This is an update from the previous suspension date of May 21, 2020.

    • Grand Canyon National Park is consulting with our USPHS representative and using local conditions to guide their decision-making process. Northern Arizona has a rising rate of COVID infections and deaths and the Navajo Nation, which is adjacent to the park, has been particularly affected. Due to the communal nature of river trips, following social distancing recommendations (ie. groups of less than 10 people, remaining 6 feet apart) is not generally feasible.

    • In accordance with guidance from the White House and that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local public health authorities, Grand Canyon National Park is working to gradually increase access and our services across the park. The NPS will continue to work alongside state and local officials as these changes are implemented.

  • Colorado River - Westwater Canyon - Updated May 16, 2020
    • BLM-managed campgrounds within the Moab Field Office in Grand County will not accept any new arrivals. This campground closure is consistent with the Southeast Utah Health Department’s public health order issued on March 16 and is subject to change as new guidance is developed. Moab Field Office-managed restrooms have been temporarily closed in Grand County. Campgrounds in San Juan County are available to visitors, these campgrounds include Ledges, Windwhistle, Hatch, and Kens Lake.
    • Consistent with guidance from state and local health authorities, the BLM is reinstating commercial river operations on the Daily section the Colorado River and Labyrinth Canyon of the Green River, effective May 15th and all private river permits and commercial launches for the Westwater Canyon Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA) effective May 20th. The health and safety of recreational visitors and our staff is our number one priority. The BLM will continue to closely monitor the situation and respond as conditions change.
  • Colorado River - State of Utah-managed section - From Whites Rapid downstream to the Boundary of Canyonlands National Park.
    • Per SEUHD2020-02, group sizes are limited to ten or less persons, and camping on Sovereign Lands/Rivers is prohibited for all persons except residents of Emery, Grand, and Carbon Counties.
    • These rules will be in effect until further notice. 
  • Deschutes River, Lower
  • Green River - Colorado - Dinosaur National Monument
  • Green River - Utah - State of Utah-managed section - From Swasey's Rapid downstream to the Boundary of Canyonlands National Park. Updated - May 16, 2020
    • BLM-managed campgrounds within the Moab Field Office in Grand County will not accept any new arrivals. This campground closure is consistent with the Southeast Utah Health Department’s public health order issued on March 16 and is subject to change as new guidance is developed. Moab Field Office-managed restrooms have been temporarily closed in Grand County. Campgrounds in San Juan County are available to visitors, these campgrounds include Ledges, Windwhistle, Hatch, and Kens Lake.

    • Consistent with guidance from state and local health authorities, the BLM is reinstating commercial river operations on the Daily section the Colorado River and Labyrinth Canyon of the Green River, effective May 15th and all private river permits and commercial launches for the Westwater Canyon Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA) effective May 20th. The health and safety of recreational visitors and our staff is our number one priority. The BLM will continue to closely monitor the situation and respond as conditions change.

  • John Day River
    • As of May 1 this is the status of the John Day River. Please check the BLM John Day River Permit site or Recreation.gov or contact the BLM Prineville District Office for ongoing updates on boating and recreation access. All public land users are asked to understand and respect social distancing guidelines in place when they visit and to always follow local regulations and practice Leave No Trace

    • BLM drive-in campgrounds in the John Day River and North Fork John Day River corridors are closed to camping.

    • BLM toilets in the John Day River and North Fork John Day River corridors are closed and not available for use.

    • The Priest Hole Recreation Site in the John Day Wild and Scenic River corridor is closed.River permits for boating on the John Day River between Spray and Tumwater Falls have been cancelled through May 20th

    • The North Fork John Day River remains open to boating and dispersed camping is allowed on BLM-managed public land in the North Fork John Day River corridor where it is normally allowed. Dispersed camping is not allowed in the campgrounds.

    • Day use of BLM-managed public land in the John Day River Corridor is authorized, including walk in fishing. 

    • Areas normally open to dispersed camping in the John Day River

    • Oregon State Parks, including Cottonwood Canyon State Park (a popular John Day takeou), remain closed. 
      Twickenham launch/takeout is closed. 

  • Kings River
    • Kirch Flat Campground and toilets will be closed but the launch is not.
  • Klamath River - Klamath National Forest (update for May 22, 2020)
    • Campgrounds that provide river access to the Klamath River that are open: Tree of Heaven and Curly Jack, though group campsites as Curly Jack remain closeed.
    • Campgrounds that provide river access that are closed through June 1: Sarah Totten,Fort Golf.
    • River Access sites (dispersed sites) that remain open, but restroom facilities are closed: Gottville, Indian Creek, Ferry Point, Independence Creek
    • River Access dispersed sites with no facilities or restrooms that are open: Ash Creek, Skeahan Bar, Brown Bear, Blue Heron, Rocky Point, Sluice Box, Portuguese Bar, Seattle Creek, Gordon’s Ferry, Chambers Flat, Wingate Bar, Coon Creek
  • Manistee - Not closed, but services are reduced
  • Merced River
    • Sites managed by CLM and the BLM (down river from the Forest Service) are being closed until further notice. 
    • There is one (undeveloped) place people can put in across the river from Red Bud, but it’s not a great site for large use.
  • Nantahala River, Upper
    • Upper Nantahala releases are being postponed due to COVID-19, and AW will work with Duke Energy and our agency partners to reschedule them when more paddlers can safely enjoy them.
  • Nolichucky River
    • Poplar Access (managed by the US Forest Service - Pisgah National Forest, Appalachian District) is closed.
  • North Chickamauga Creek
    • Takeout and trail system closed until further notice.
  • North Umpqua River (May 9, 2020 update - B. Blackwell)
    • The Forest Service-managed boat ramps have been opened - this provides an update for all ramps.  Note: bathrooms are open but not being cleaned due a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) so visitors should bring their own toilet paper (or a wag bag!). BLM boat ramps have been closed: their online resource do not indicate they've opened, as well.  
    • Douglas County boat ramps currently remain open so the lower portion of the North Umpqua has had drift boaters fishing and the occasional kayak.
  • Ocoee River
    • TN State Parks' facilities reopened Aoril 24th for day use.
  • Owyhee River - Closures include:
    • Boat access sites on Vale BLM-managed lands campgrounds in Malheur County and on the Baker Resource Area.
    • Hot springs sites in Malheur County.
    • National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City.
    • Developed campgrounds in Malheur County and on the Baker Resource Area.
    • The BLM road east of Harris Park and all South Fork Walla Walla Trailhead facilities remain closed due to flooding earlier in the year.
  • Ozark River - Ozark National Scenic Riverway
    • Effective immediately, Ozark National Scenic Riverways is suspending all commercial services operations within the park and expanding the restriction on camping to include all gravel bar camping and camping along trails in support of federal, state, and local efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

    • The suspension of commercial services includes operations by all authorized outfitters within the park boundaries, such as the park’s contracted float and shuttle concessions and guide services. This suspension remains in effect through at least May 10 and will be evaluated prior to that time to determine if there is a need for extension.

    • Camping closures have also been expanded to encompass all camping, including gravel bar camping and dispersed camping along the Ozark Trail within the park boundary. These closures will remain in effect until at least May 10 and may be extended beyond that date if necessary. All camping or pavilion reservations between April 15 and May 10 have been canceled through the recreation.gov website and visitors should expect refunds processed for those cancellations.

    • https://www.nps.gov/ozar/learn/news/ozark-national-scenic-riverways-suspends-commercial-services-activities-and-updates-current-operations.htm
  • Pere Marquette River Not closed, but services are reduced
  • Pine River (MI)- Not closed, but services are reduced 
  • Rio Grande River - Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River & Big Bend National Park
  • Lower Rogue Wild and Scenic River (5/26/2020)
    Wild section: open 

Grave Creek Boat Ramp: no trash service or bathrooms available.
Foster Bar Boat Ramp: Open; parking is allowed, no bathrooms, trash service or Scat machine available
Rogue River National Recreation Trail
Rogue River Ranch; no restrooms, services or museum available.
Smullin Visitor Center at Rand
Tucker Flat Campground
Rainie Falls Trail

  • Rogue - BLM Recreational section: river is open to boating and other water related activity. Follow Oregon social distancing guidelines. 

Open:
Hog Creek boat ramp, Hellgate day use area, Rand day use area, Whiskey Creek overlook, Argo river access, Hellgate vista point, Robert Dean dispersed river camp, Rocky Bar, Whitehorse boat ramp, Chair Riffle day use area 
No restroom facilities or trash services available at BLM developed recreation sites
All Josephine County Parks day use sites, campgrounds and boat ramps
No showers are available. 


Rogue - USFS Recreational and Scenic sections: River is open to boating and other water related activity. Follow OR social distancing guidelines.
Closed:
Quosatana Creek Campground
Lobster Creek Campground
All trailhead parking 
All toilet facilities and garbage services
Open
Quosatana boat ramp (parking allowed on gravel bar)
Lobster Creek boat ramp (nearby parking open)
Lower Rogue Trail #1168 (Agness to Silver Creek)

For most current updates:
http://www.co.josephine.or.us/SectionIndex.asp?SectionID=132
https://www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/permits-and-passes/lotteries-and-permit-systems/oregon-washington/rogue-river
https://www.fs.usda.gov/rogue-siskiyou/
https://govstatus.egov.com/or-covid-19

  • Salmon River, North Fork - California
    • Idlewild Campground closed by Regional Order – adjacent river access to Idlewild run is open.
    • Forks of Salmon dispersed river access site is open, but restroom is closed.
    • Jackass dispersed river access site is open.
  • Salmon River, South Fork - California
    • Mathews Creek Campground is closed by Regional Order – adjacent dispersed river access site is open.
    • Methodist dispersed river access site is open.
  • Salmon River - California
    • Nordheimer Campground closed by Regional Order.
    • Adjacent river access to Nordheimer run is open.
  • Salmon River, Middle Fork - Idaho
  • Salmon River - Idaho
    • Open as of May 15 (the Order to Close was lifted May 14)!
  • San Juan River
    • River is open!  See BLM protocols noted at rcreation.gov here
    • Affected reservations have been cancelled and refunds have been issued. Rec.gov does not give an end date but we understand it is currently April 20th. 
  • Salt River
    • The White Mountain Apache Tribe has stopped selling permits for the Salt River as of 3/18.
    • Tonto National Forest is still open to the public as of this writing. FS 303B into Gleeson Flat, and Horseshoe Bend are the only river access points presently open.
  • Smith River - 

    Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks reopened the Smith River to recreational floating beginning on May 05, 2020.  A 14-day quarantine remains in effect for all non-residents entering the state.  Contingency Plan on registering floaters remotely is in the works. The Camp Baker Ranger Station is closed and camping there is not allowed.  Here is a site map and list of campsite distances along the river.

    Registration will occur via phone, two days in advance of permit holders’ launch date.  River Rangers will call permit holders, in a randomly-selected order, between 1:00 and 3:30 pm, Mountain Standard Time (MST).  Permit holders must be prepared to provide the following information, prior to the phone call:

    • Number of nights on the river and boat camp preference
    • Names, ages and state of residence of all members of float group
    • Number and type of watercraft
    • Be prepared to pay full balance of permit fees via one credit card 
  • Tatshenshini-Alsek Rivers
    • Glacier Bay, Yukatat Visitor Centers are closed.
    • Borders with Canada are closed in both directions for non-essential travel (recreation is in this category).
  • Tallulah River
    • Recreational Whitewater Releases scheduled for April 4th,5th,11th, and 12th 2020 in Tallulah Falls, Georgia at Tallulah Gorge have been canceled.
    • To take proactive measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), and after consultation with Georgia State Parks and American Whitewater which coordinate the spring recreational releases for boaters and participant, the decision was made to cancel.
    • At this time, there are no plans to cancel the Fall releases scheduled for the first three weekends in November.
  • Tohickon Creek
    • As part of its coronavirus closures of state parks in Bucks County, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has canceled the annual spring whitewater release from Nockamixon Dam into Tohickon Creek, which was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, March 21-22.
  • Tuckasegee River, West Fork
    • West Fork Tuckasegee releases are being postponed due to COVID-19. American Whitewater will work with Duke Energy and our agency partners to reschedule them when more paddlers can safely enjoy them.
  • Tuolumne River
    • Still open, though Stanislaus National Forest developed sites and toilets are closed.
  • White River (MI) - Not closed, but services are reduced
  • Yampa River - Dinosaur National Monument 
  • Youghiogheny River, Upper
    • All scheduled whitewater releases for the month of April and presumably longer, have been cancelled.
    • From the Friendsville Mayor and Town Council: During this COVID-19 public “stay at home order”, the Town of Friendsville views scheduled whitewater dam releases as a public health threat because of the Rivers irresistible attraction to many boaters.  We asked our working partners, Maryland Department of the Environment and Brookfield Renewable Power, who have the authority to shut down scheduled whitewater dam releases for their help. They are cancelling all scheduled whitewater releases for the month of April and presumably longer until the duration of the emergency subsides.  
Federal Guidance & Changes

Bureau of Land Management

US Forest Service

  • Region 6 of the Forest Service has closed all their recreation sites (that includes river access).

National Park Service Rivers - See changes in Park and Facility Operations. Please check with individual parks for specific details about park operations.

Louisville Army Corps of Engineers - Updated 3-28-2020 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District will be closing all Corps-managed day use recreational areas and associated public facilities (such as beaches, picnic shelters and restrooms) and postponing the opening of all campgrounds until further notice.

Tennessee Valley AuthorityTennessee Valley Authority is closing public recreation areas to support the governor's initiative.

  • As of Friday, April 3, recreation areas at Chatuge, Cherokee, Fort Loudoun, the south side of Guntersville, Normandy, Norris, Tellico and Watts Bar dams will be closed, according to a media release from TVA. All recreation areas at Raccoon Mountain will also be closed.
  • TVA had already closed recreation areas at Chickamauga and South Holston dams, as well as the Rockpile area near Muscle Shoals, Ala.
  • The closures will include boat ramps within the impacted areas plus picnic areas, restrooms, beaches and pavilions.
  • The TVA statement noted that access points located outside the affected recreations will remain open for now, including trails on undeveloped public land managed by TVA.
State Guidance & Changes

See this State-by-State Stay-at-Home Order Update - Please check with your state's allowance for outdoor activity before you drive to a river for a day trip. In many cases the 'river' is open, though managed access is not.  RMS 4-3-2020

  • California State Parks - closed until June 7
  • Colorado, Chaffee County 
- Guiding and outfitting-related business services may be provided to Chaffee County residents to members of a single household or a mixed group of 4 or fewer individuals
- Businesses must comply with social distancing and other safety requirements and obtain a Safe Business Certificate
- Businesses may book reservations for out-of-county guests after May
- Guide training may begin May 18th. Out-of-county guides must quarantine from their home for 2 weeks prior to coming to the County.
- Guiding and outfitting businesses need to operate within the county in which they are located.
  • Indiana
    • State - Governor-issued stay at home executive order #20-08 3/23/20 "7c. For Outdoor Activity: To engage in outdoor activity, provided that they comply with the Social Distancing Requirements (as defined below), such as, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, running or biking. Individuals may go to public parks and open outdoor recreation areas.
    • Department of Natural Resources - State Parks 3/24/20 Covid-19 response - Outdoor activities, and travel to and from those activities, are still permitted. This includes hiking, biking, fishing, boating, birding, hunting, camping, geocaching and other self-directed legal activities.
  • Kansas -  All designated swimming beaches at Kansas state parks are temporarily closed. Visitors may still enjoy the water in other areas, so long as social distancing and park regulations are observed.
  • Minnesota -  Boating is  allowable with immediate family members.  See state guidance here.
  • Mississippi
    • In regards to Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves' Executive Order #1466, as of now our Mississippi boat ramps will remain open to the public.
    • Two people will be allowed per boat on the water.
    • If you have more than two people in your boat you may be issued a citation.
    • Groups of people congregating at sand bars, boat ramps, or fishing areas may be issued citations. 
  • Oklahoma
    • April 24 - Commercial float operators and camps should be allowed to open April 24th. Additionally, public access areas will also be open. However, additional requirements in the attached plan require such activities to adhere to sanitation protocols and guidelines published by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some activities, such as busing without modification of seating arrangement, congregating, and operating a dining operation or bar may not conform to the plan or guidelines cited therein.
  • Oregon 
    • State-managed sites (State DNR and State Parks) are all closed.
    • City and county parks and other public land managers are open at their discretion, with the recommendation they do so only if they can adhere to social distancing practice.
  • South Carolina
    • Governor Henry McMaster issued Executive Order 2020-16, which orders the closure of all public access points to the state’s beaches, as well as closure of all public boat ramps, landings and other access points on the state's lakes, rivers and waterways.

  • Tennessee
    • In response to Coronavirus outbreak, all State Natural Areas will be closed to the public until they can safely be reopened. 
    • In the interest of public health, the Division of Natural Areas encourages all to continue social distancing and other recommended practices.
  • Washington - Many Washington state parks will reopen Tuesday, May 5 — for day use only. We've missed you and are looking forward to seeing you again! Later this week we'll have more details on which parks will reopen. We're looking at a new normal, so please #RecreateResponsibly and follow our guidelines: https://loom.ly/eNxPgJY