Oregon’s outdoors is getting a little more expensive in a lot of different ways in 2020.
The cost to hike, boat, fish and visit Oregon’s public lands is increasing on multiple fronts while new permit systems limit access to large swaths of the state’s backcountry.
Fueled by the state’s population growth, which has led to frequently overwhelmed scenic areas and facilities, the new fees and permits target groups unaccustomed to paying much, such as hikers and non-motorized boaters. But the cost of traditional fishing and hunting licenses is also going up.
In general, the fees are small and geared at improving the outdoor experience, land managers say. But taken together, it does raise the question of affordability, especially for lower socioeconomic classes to experience public lands.
Here are six new permit systems and fee increases that will impact Oregon’s outdoors beginning in 2020.
New permit and fees required for rafting, kayaking and drift boats
The cost of floating Oregon’s waterways with a raft, kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard is going up in 2020.
Passage of Senate Bill 47 means anyone paddling a non-motorized boat over 10-feet long will need to purchase a Waterway Access Permit for $17 annually or $30 for two years — typically with an extra $2 processing fee. A $5 weekly option will also be available.
The permit will be required on all rivers, lakes and reservoirs — any “boatable waterway.”
The permit replaces the previous $5 invasive species permit and is on sale through the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website.
The permit can be transferred from boat to boat, and those under 14 won’t need one. The new rule went into effect Jan. 1.
The Oregon Marine Board will give boaters a grace period from Jan. 1 to Aug. 1 to get used to the new system before a fine of $115 will be considered for failing to have the permit, officials said.
Revenue from the new system will go into a fund to improve boat ramps, parking lots and even purchase land to improve access to Oregon’s waterways, officials said.
For the past decade, Oregon has seen a growing number of non-motorized boaters at facilities funded largely by motorized boaters, officials with the Oregon Marine Board said.
The bill passed the Oregon Senate 17-11 and the Oregon House 36-24 before being signed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.
Priscilla Macy, regional coordinator for American Whitewater, said she started out skeptical of the proposed fees but came around to supporting the plan
“Hunters, anglers and motorized users already pay fees to support access, services and facilities for outdoor recreation on public lands and waterways,” she said. “Paying $30 every two years into a dedicated fund that will result in improved services, increased advocacy and support improvements to public waterways access in Oregon seems like a reasonable way to contribute our fair share.”
For rivers that already have a permit system in place — including parts of the Rogue, Deschutes or John Day rivers — a waterway access permit isn’t required.
Limited entry, fees for a few wilderness areas
Perhaps the biggest change of 2020 is the “limited entry permit” system coming to three of Oregon’s most popular wilderness areas.
In May, the U.S. Forest Service approved a system that will use permits to limit the number of people allowed into the Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson and Mount Washington wilderness areas with a quota system.
Spurred by rapidly increasing crowds, garbage and damage, the quota system applies to anyone who wants to stay overnight in the 450,000 acres of backcountry and begin a day-hike from 19 of the most popular trailheads.
That means you’ll need one of a limited number of permits to hike South Sister or Broken Top and camp at Jefferson Park next season.
The cost of the permits — and exactly how they’ll be delivered — is being hashed out. A current proposal asks for around $4 to $11 per person, per day.
Either way, the need to get a special permit — not just fill one out at the trailhead — will be a major change for hikers, backpackers and equestrians.
Cost of fishing and hunting license hits final increase in 2020
For the past six years, the cost to fish and hunt has gradually increased by small amounts, with 2020 bring the final year of the slow uptick.
A fishing license will cost Oregonians $44 in 2020, up from $41 last year and $33 in 2014. A hunting license will reach $34.50, up from $29.50 in 2014.
The cost of tags is also going up. An adult angling tag — required if fishing for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or halibut — will reach $46, up from $40.50 in 2019 and $26.50 in 2014.
The increase was fueled by a $32 million shortfall in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife budget back in 2014, caused in part by the long-term decline of anglers and hunters buying licenses.
Since that time, the agency cut costs and looked for ways to avoid raising license fees. ODFW numbers show that the number of fishing and hunting licenses purchased has increased since 2014.
Cost of entering Crater Lake National Park increases
The cost to see the deepest lake in the United States will have almost doubled in two short years when visitors arrive in 2020.
On Jan. 1, it will cost $30 per vehicle and $25 per motorcycle to visit the park with annual park passes going for $55.
Less than two years ago, it was $15 per vehicle and $10 per motorcycle with an annual park pass going for $40.
The increase is part of a nationwide effort to cover local and national deferred park maintenance and other projects, officials said in a news release.
Park Superintendent Craig Ackerman said the money would go toward a number of projects including improving trails and bathrooms to expanding parking at popular Cleetwood Cove Trailhead.
Eighty percent of entrance fees are used at Crater Lake while the other 20 percent of entry fee income helps other parks, officials said.
Crater Lake has seen a major increase in visits over the past five years.
RV campsites are getting a little more expensive at Oregon’s most popular state parks this summer in a program to encourage people to camp in autumn and fall.
The cost will increase by $3 at 22 parks from Memorial Day to Labor Day to pay for a special $7 discount on camping in the fall and spring.
The goal is to encourage people to camp in the “shoulder seasons.”
An increasing number of visitors have often overwhelmed RV sites across the state — leaving many sold out — during the peak of summer, officials said. They’re looking to spread out use across the seasons to lessen the load.
The cost of tent camping is unchanged in 2020 at state parks.
John Day River limited float permits
You’ll need one of a limited number of permits to float the Wild and Scenic section of the John Day River this season from May 1 to July 15.
The permit system adds the John Day to a list of rivers with a “limited entry” system, including the Rogue and Deschutes rivers, that regulates the number of people allowed to launch each day.
The permit system, intended to limit damage to a canyon with limited campsites, was approved in 2012. But in 2014, the website controlling the permits crashed and BLM stopped enforcing the limits.
This year, permits will be sold on the website Recreation.Gov for $20 per group, plus a $6 processing fee, for a group up to 16 people.
Nine permits will be available each day for trips launching from Clarno, Thirtymile, Muleshoe or Service Creek while 10 will be open for trips from Twickenham, Priest Hole or Lower Burnt Ranch.
Officials said that previously, on peak weekends, some people floating the river were unable to find any campsite and ended up floating through the night.
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