LT Murray Wildlife Area & Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

youtubeIn my last entry we looked at why RV travel is expected to be the preferred method of travel this summer and how RV camping supports many outdoor activities your family can enjoy while distancing yourselves from others. I promised to share different locations over the next couple of months on where to camp along with the outdoor activities that can be enjoyed from camp.

Since I wrote the last entry, RV rentals have soared over 600%, RV dealers are running out of inventory and states have begun to reopen public campgrounds. My expectations are coming true, so be prepared for campgrounds to be crowded (if they are even open yet).

With the possibility that conventional campgrounds might be busy, in this entry we will look at two adjoining land agencies that allow dispersed camping: The Washington State LT Murray Wildlife area which just reopened June 1st to overnight dispersed camping and the area of the Wenatchee Okanogan National (Federal) Forest to the west which has been open to dispersed camping during the entire pandemic. Since these areas are less than 100 miles from the Seattle metro area in King County, which has not yet reopened public campgrounds, I thought this would be an appropriate area to share since many readers call the Puget Sound region home.

The L.T. Murray Wildlife Area is located in Kittitas County and covers approximately 115,000 acres in five units with thousands of acres of Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Land Management, and US Forest Service lands interspersed throughout in a checkerboard pattern. While the entire area is open to dispersed camping, the easiest accessed dispersed campsites are all along Taneum Creek via West Taneum Road and just inside the gate at where Watt Canyon Road enters the wildlife area. The photo shown of camping along Tanuem Creek is in the vicinity of N47° 06.724  W120° 53.493


Dispersed Camping Along Taneum Creek

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest offers dispersed camping at undeveloped locations throughout the forest. Generally there are no amenities at these locations, such as restrooms or water. Some of the more popular areas to disperse camp in the vicinity of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area include Taneum Junction Campground, Gooseberry Flats, Gnat Flats and Riders Camp among many other locations. The photo shown of camping at Gnat Flats is in the vicinity of N47° 05.139 W 120° 55.916


Dispersed Camping at Gnat Flats

Now unlike a developed campground or RV park that has developed recreation features like playgrounds, pools, paved biking trails, docks, etc, you will have to “search out” activities that interest you and your family while dispersed camping.

Here are some suggestions that both areas offer:

Bicycle Riding: While there are no official bicycle only trails, there are endless roads, game trails, multiuser trails and old logging skid roads that offer days of exploring via a mountain bike.

Shed Antler Collecting: There is a large population of deer and elk in the areas and both species shed (drop) their antlers each spring. Many campers explore the woods in the hopes of finding one or more of these sought after prizes of nature.


A Lucky Antler Shed Hunter

Metal detecting: While this is a hobby that can be enjoyed just about anywhere, doing so in the forest provides the chance to find something of value lost by other dispersed campers, while also getting some exercise in a natural setting. Regardless of what you find, younger children will consider every item dug as “treasure”. This is also a good opportunity to practice and teach children the importance of “pack it in, pack it out” and take all garbage you detect home with you and leave the campsite cleaner than you found it. While restrictions concerning metal detecting are few, make sure you know the rules and follow them.


Metal Detecting - You Never Know What You Will Find

Hiking: Being that both areas are open land in all directions, you are free to hike in any direction you like from your camp where you won’t likely encounter another person only wildlife. If you prefer developed trails there many trails in the National Forest open to hikers, motorcycles, horses, ATVs and bicycles.

Bird Watching: The two areas are home to quail, chukar, grouse, hawks, eagles, and songbirds among others for those that enjoy “birding”.

Wildflowers: Spring and summer offer wildflowers galore. In early spring you will find blooms in the lower elevations of the L.T Murray followed by mountain wildflowers in the higher reaches of the National Forest’s alpine meadows in mid to late summer as the snow retreats.


Beautiful Wildflowers

Fishing: The streams and lakes of both areas are open to fishing for those possessing the proper license. Just sitting along the shore of beautiful Manastash Lake is a treat even if you don’t catch anything!

Geocaching: Geocaches are hidden throughout the areas at scenic areas or points of interest, so pack a lunch, grab the GPS and make a day out of locating them while enjoying time in the forest with family.


Geocache - Alien Landing Zone Themed

Target Shooting: Practice your marksmanship during your stay by doing a little target shooting. Please shoot in appropriate locations, always shoot into an embankment, pick up your targets / shells before you leave and be respectful of other campers.

Motorized Toys: Motorcycle and ATV riding is enjoyed by many camping in the areas, so bring along your toys and employ them while sightseeing, geocaching, shed hunting or trail riding. Be sure your machines are properly licensed and know what the rules are.

Hopefully the above information has encouraged you to get out of the house now that Stay at Home orders have been lifted and enjoy camping with the family in the great outdoors. With a little planning you too can discover a secluded dispersed campsite and maybe enjoy a new activity (or two) that doesn’t involve mingling with strangers, “high touch areas”, checking in, enclosed areas and other known sources of virus transmission.   Enjoy!

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.

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