McKenzie River camping faces restrictions to combat illegal dumps

MCKENZIE BRIDGE, Ore. - At just one of the many illegal dump sites scattered throughout the popular McKenzie River recreation area, piles of broken glass, batteries, fuel containers and worse lurk a short distance from the river and Cougar Reservoir.

A bus stop on Highway 126 provides a link between Eugene and the McKenzie River - one of the factors public land managers suspect make it easy for homeless camps to form along the river and leave garbage in their wake.

"There's an attraction because it's nearby the bus stop," said Katie Isacksen with the Willamette National Forest. "It's nearby a town. It's nearby water."

Isacksen said a camping ban along a 15-mile stretch of Forest Road 19 has been in place since 1998.

But illegal dumping has continued. Isacksen said the Forest Service is now proposing to double the area of the ban and put an end to campfires away from already established camp sites.

"These places are sensitive, and they need time to heal," Isacksen said. "If people want to disperse camp, they need to disperse camp elsewhere."

The McKenzie River Ranger District is accepting public comments on the proposal until May 17. Comments can be submitted directly at the Ranger Station, emailed to or by calling (541) 822-7234.