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Memorial Day weekend signals return to outdoors

Like many of you, I waited up late Tuesday night until it became early Wednesday morning to see if I drew anything in Nevada’s big-game tag draw. With draw results expected to show up sometime after midnight, it would not have done me any good to hit the sack.

I would only lay there looking at the ceiling, then at my watch, then at the ceiling again, and so on.

One reader posted on Facebook early on that they had drawn a cow elk tag. That will give them an opportunity to spend quality time outdoors with family or friends and put some tasty meat in the freezer. Meanwhile, the rest of us awaited our turn to learn what we hoped would be good news. Since my tag options were limited by waiting periods, I was only hoping for a minor miracle.

By 1:45 a.m. I was running out of gas, and that minor miracle still had not happened. Despite my best efforts to wish it otherwise, the news I had been waiting for still had not shown up. Thinking that the no news is good news principle might apply, I opted to spend the rest of the night waiting in slumber mode.

Unfortunately, no news in those early morning hours turned out to be bad news. I woke up to find the dreaded email notification that my application had been unsuccessful. The second year in a row with goose eggs, but I cannot complain too much. I had a good run in the three years before the drought began. Congratulations and good luck to those of you whose drawing luck was better than mine.

With the release of tag draw results now a thing of the past, we can turn our attention to the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. Long considered the traditional opening weekend of the summer boating season, it also is one of the busiest for outdoor travel destinations in general. Every venue, from boat ramps to campgrounds and hiking trails, is usually packed with folks looking to escape urban canyons and concrete pathways.

The question is, what can you expect this year?

My guess is visitation at some locations will be reduced, but crowded conditions will still be part of the outdoor experience, especially at local venues like the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. As has been documented in multiple news reports, people who have been staying at home due to COVID-19 restrictions have a pent-up need for open spaces. As a result, available destinations across the country have been quite busy. Now comes the holiday weekend with its tradition of outdoor travel.

A second reason you will see more crowds that usual is the limit on accessibility at some outdoor destinations, unless something changes before the weekend begins. Those limitations will ultimately channel more people into limited available open space. That means you will need to be flexible in your plans and prepared for last minute changes.

Currently, Nevada’s state parks are open for day use only. Fishing, boating, hiking and other outdoor activities are permitted, but all state campgrounds are off limits. Visitor centers, museums, gift shops and the like are also closed.

At the Lake Mead NRA, visitors will find parking lots, launch ramps, overlooks, beaches, picnic areas, the Hemenway Fishing Pier and trails open, but not all. Some areas remain closed, including developed campgrounds. A complete list of closed areas is available online. To avoid disappointment, be sure to consult it before making the trip.

If you do visit Lake Mead or Lake Mohave, the National Park Service recommends bringing in what you need, including fuel for your boat and drinking water for you and your pets. Plan on packing out everything you bring in.

In Utah, all areas managed by the state Division of Parks and Recreation are open, including campgrounds. And in Arizona, state parks, trails and campgrounds are open, though most historic sites are closed. Be sure to check for updated information before making the trip to avoid disappointment. Also be aware that these will be high-traffic areas.

In all three states, steps are being taken to keep public facilities as clean as possible, but it is probably a good idea for visitors to bring their own toilet paper, soap, water, paper towels, sanitary wipes and hand sanitizer. And don’t forget your common sense and good outdoor manners.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is not affiliated with, or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com

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