As temperatures continue to climb and the last of the snow melts away, public campgrounds on the Kenai Peninsula are beginning to open for the season.
Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation area superintendent Chris Degernes said this week's clam tides and the accompanying tide of campers have provided an opportunity to work out any bugs in the system before the big Memorial Day and king salmon opening rush later this month.
"The mini-burst before Memorial Day weekend helps us identify any kinks that need to be worked out before the big crowds arrive," Degernes said, adding that the holiday coming later in the month gave her staff a little more time to prepare for the season.
Degernes said that all the state recreation areas "in the clam zone" are open, though visitors can expect maintenance to be going on. Water systems are in the process of being turned on, and Degernes cautioned that some sites took a harder hit from winter storms than others.
"Ninilchik Beach campground is in a little rough shape. It's pretty soft, but we have someone under contract to do some grading work," Degernes said. "There's some continued flood repair work that will be completed at Deep Creek beach, so people should expect to see some activity in some of those sites."
Degernes also said Bing's Landing campground would not open until after this weekend as crews remove some beetle kill.
Brenda Nichol, a refuge clerk, last week said the campgrounds on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge open year-round, but added that not all facilities, such as water and restrooms, would be available.
Nichol said Skilak Lake Road was completely passable this year, though she did report a mucky area by the hill going up to Ohmer Lake.
As of last week, Nichol said, the ice had yet to go out on most of the lakes and ponds on the refuge.
On the eastern side of the peninsula in Chugach National Forest, some of the campgrounds are snow-free and open to camping, but Karen O'Leary, a recreation and lands forester with the U.S. Forest Service, said that no services will be provided at those sites.
"So they have to do pack-it-in, pack-it-out camping," O'Leary said.
O'Leary said Quartz Creek campground near Cooper Landing and Porcupine campground near Hope are open for camping. Others will open as snow levels recede. O'Leary said full-service camping will be available beginning around May 21, and all of the campgrounds should be ready for visitors by Memorial Day weekend.
O'Leary said the Russian River campground still has quite a bit of ice buildup on the access road and wouldn't be open for a little while.
One benefit of getting out early, O'Leary said, is that camping is free until campgrounds are in full-service mode, at which time fees of $10 to $20 a night will apply. O'Leary said visitors need to read the sings posted at campground entry stations for fee information.
Reservations can be made for several campgrounds in Chugach National Forest on the Internet at www.reserve usa.com. Popular spots, such as the Russian River campground during salmon runs, already are almost fully booked.
More information is available on the Chugach National Forest Web site at www.fs.fed. us/r10/ chugach.
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