The Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is phasing out camping at a popular area used by salmon anglers and will end the practice by 2026. 

The Vernita Bridge access to the Columbia River, just off Highway 243 near Highway 24 has been well-known to salmon anglers during the fall chinook season.  

Too well known for WDFW. 

The day use site has been used as a fish camp for extended periods since the 1990’s. The agency says some guides actually operate their commercial businesses from the site during fishing season 

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This week, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported WDFW announced new camping restrictions begin this fall and overnight camping will be phased out in 2026 

"The level of use has not only become unsustainable but is causing damage to the natural landscape," said Mike Livingston, the Fish and Wildlife South Central Region director. 

 "As the popularity of this area grew, the footprint of the area the public uses grew as well, getting bigger each year"  

The agency cited the lack of sewage and sanitation facilities is attracting insects and small animals.  

People have improvised their own boat launches by backing vehicles and trailers over the natural vegetation to gain river access, according to Fish and Wildlife. 

Changes for the 2024 and 2025 and the Fall Chinook seasons: 

— Designated areas for overnight camping and day use will be established with large rocks, eco-blocks and signs. 

— Vehicles and trailers will be restricted to designated areas. During peak times, alternative camping locations may be necessary. 

— Camping will be limited to 14 days per user. 

— With the exception of fall salmon season Aug. 16 to Oct. 15, camping is prohibited and vehicles are limited to the day use area only 

Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers will patrol the site to make sure the new rules are followed. 

To offset the loss of camping, an alternative location is being sought and public comment will be taken once it is identified and developed. 

WDFW says the state plans to develop an improved boat launch, restroom and parking area at Vernita access as the camping is phased out. 

Other camping options in the region; 

  • Desert Aire RV park at Mattawa (11 miles)  
  • Grant PUD Jackson Creek Fish Camp at Mattawa (7 miles) 
  • Grant PUD Priest Rapids Recreation Area at Desert Aire (11 miles) 

Other boat launch options;

  • The middle of the Hanford Reach is accessible at the Ringold Fish Hatchery area
  • The upper Hanford Reach from the White Bluffs day use launch. 

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Gallery Credit: Rik Mikals



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