Cutting to the Core

Cheers to free camping

Finding free services anymore is darn near impossible these days. That really holds true when it comes to camping in national and state forests.

On a recent run down the Oregon coast into California the family and I stayed in a tent at campgrounds along the route. The fees to stay in these camping spots ranged from a high of $28 to a low of $18. Mind you, these places were on the coast, so the costs were pretty reasonable.

But nothing is better than free and the family and I found that this past weekend north of Roslyn.

Attempting to stay at Wish Poosh on a late July weekend without a reservation was foolhardy I admit, but that's how I roll.

Determined to find a spot, I headed north from Wish Poosh on SR 903. After checking out the Cle Elum River campground, the family and I continued searching after discovering it was full, as well.

It was then that we saw several vehicles and camp fires near a bend in the river about 500 yards off the highway. On a whim I turned off the road, crossed a bridge and there I was, at a free campsite.

Now, I've heard of free campsites before but I always thought they were on some trail in the wilderness. But here was a free campsite a mere 500 yards off of a paved road.

The sites are a bit rustic but over the years hordes of campers have worked most of the spots into comfortable areas. The fire pits were the largest and nicest I've seen at any campground. Some rangers told me each fire pit was built by campers.

There aren't any showers or water taps available but the Cle Elum River runs besides the camp. There are also several portable toilets placed strategically throughout the campground. The only thing the place is missing other campgrounds might have are picnic tables.

The only rule asked of campers is to take out anything that is brought in. For the most part, people do that and park rangers pick up the rest.

This area is right past Cle Elum River Campground on French Cabin Creek Road. I was told there are several free campsites in the area, clear up to Salmon la Sac and around Cooper Lake.

A little more research and I found a book titled Ray's Guides: Free Campgrounds in Washington State, for $13.95. Apparently there are quite a few free camp sites in our area.

So sure, the cost of getting to the mountains might cost a fortune. The food and snacks required for a good campout will also put a dent in your wallet. And of course, with wood going between $5 and $7 a bundle, another $21 from your pocket could literally go up in smoke.

With all that it's nice to know there are still places where you can at least set up your tent or park your RV for no charge.


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