Despite snowy conditions Friday, 13 campgrounds scattered throughout the Deschutes National Forest opened for Oregon’s spring break, weeks ahead of the traditional start of the forest’s camping season.

If weather conditions stay favorable, the campgrounds will stay open through March 31 before closing again, according to Kassidy Kern, public affairs specialist for the Deschutes National Forest. The goal, Kern said, was to take advantage of a relatively dry winter by being more flexible than usual.

“Let’s see if this experiment works,” Kern said.

The North Twin, South Twin, Big River and Fall River campgrounds are open in the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District. In the Crescent Ranger District, Crescent Creek and East Davis Lake campgrounds are open. Campgrounds at Camp Sherman, Smiling River, Pine Rest, Gorge, Allen Springs, Lower Bridge and Link Creek are open in the Sisters Ranger District.

Kern added that two other campgrounds — Sunset Cove and Princess Creek — were slated to open Friday, but snowy conditions delayed the opening. She said the Forest Service was hopeful that snow would melt enough to allow those campsites to open later in the week.

“Beginning early next week, we’re looking to be on a really good trajectory for beautiful weather,” Kern said Friday.

She added that campsites that are snowed in should be considered off limits.

The open campgrounds have limited amenities, with no water or trash service, although bathrooms will be maintained, according to the Forest Service.

Because of the lack of amenities, Kern said each of the campgrounds will be discounted for the week, up to 50 percent in some locations.

All campsites will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Kern said the campgrounds typically open around Memorial Day but added that visitors often want to see open campgrounds earlier in the year when the weather’s nice.

Given the relative lack of rain and snow this winter, Kern said the Bend-La Pine Schools spring break, which runs from Monday through March 30, presented a chance to try something new.

“People would like us to be more flexible,” Kern said. “Spring break was a great opportunity to test this out.”

While the lack of precipitation this winter has hurt Central Oregon’s snowpack, it has also helped workers on Central Oregon’s public lands start projects that would otherwise wait until later in the year.

In addition to opening campgrounds, Kern said Forest Service employees have begun maintaining forest roads earlier than usual, and added that she expects to have more opportunities than usual for controlled burns in the spring.

“I think we’re looking at a week to two weeks earlier for that burn window,” Kern said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

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