All campgrounds are open on the Bitterroot National Forest for the July 4th weekend. Tod McKay of the forest said in a news release that officials are expecting a busy weekend - the weather forecast is good and July 4th is on a Saturday. A reminder - most campgrounds are "first come, first served" and sites must be occupied on the first night - no setting out chairs or coolers ahead of time without actually occupying the campsite. The other reminder - NO fireworks allowed. That's a year-round rule and violations can cost you up to $5,000 or some time in jail.

With that said, enjoy yourself in the Bitterroot Valley's forests. If you're going to Lake Como, there is a $5 per vehicle daily parking pass. Get the $30 season pass at many area retailers and it's good all summer. The creeks are still running fast and high with the recent rainstorms and there will probably be some busier traffic on those forest roads than you might expect. A little patience and some courtesy go a long way!

McKay said there have been reports of black bears at several campgrounds, so keep your unattended food and other attractants secured and maintain a clean camp. Bring your own water. It's always good to "Pack it in, pack it out," too. Oh, yes, the campfire. Make sure it's dead out - cold to the touch - when you leave your site at any time. You could be liable for costs of fighting any wildfire that starts from your unattended campfire.

There are two roads that are very rough. The Lost Horse Road on the Darby/Sula Ranger District is open to Twin Lakes and Bear Creek Pass, but it has deep ruts. Trailers are not recommended. The Magruder Road is impassable - it still has snow just past Observation Point and more road work is continuing for the next month on that wilderness route to Idaho. No cell phone service available in the Magruder Corridor.

Bitterroot National Forest offices will be closed Friday, July 3, for the federal holiday. So, if you need maps or permits, get 'em Wednesday or Thursday. Happy 4th!

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