Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Highways not safe places to park, camp

By Mike Allende

One of the great things about our state is the recreation. Mountains, rivers, forests, ocean beaches. We have it all. And while the safest thing to do as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic is to stay close to home, we know that people are looking to get outside during the summer.

Recently we've received a lot of messages about people going to recreation areas only to find the parking lots full. Rather than find a less populated place to enjoy the outdoors, they park alongside the highway. This is not a great idea and we want everyone to be safe in whatever choice they make.

Highway shoulders are designed for emergencies. In many cases, people are parking on shoulders too narrow for their vehicle to fit without being partway on the highway. Not only does this lead to significant traffic congestion – especially on weekends – as drivers need to slow down to avoid hitting an illegally parked car, it's also a huge safety issue.
photo courtesy of US Forest Service

Parking on the shoulder also means people are walking along the highway, often carrying things like kayaks, canoes and coolers which limit mobility and their ability to see oncoming traffic. No one should be walking along most highways unless it's an emergency.
photo courtesy of US Forest Service
In particular, we've seen issues on US 2 at Eagle Falls – between Index and Skykomish – where very large crowds are parking in no-parking areas and driving dangerously, leading to significant congestion and big safety issues. We're seeing passing in no-passing zones, dangerous u-turns, people walking across the highway and parking vehicles too close to – and sometimes partway on – the highway. This is in a remote area with a 60 mph speed limit so any one of these actions could lead to tragedy. And, these issues also make it more difficult for emergency crews to respond to incidents as needed. We're working on plans to help with the situation, and the Washington State Patrol is working on enforcement but we also need the public's help in keeping everyone safe.

We know the draw of hiking to a waterfall or kayaking down a river is huge, maybe now more than ever. But we ask you to do it safely. Leave early and remember to have a backup plan if the place you want to go to is full – and that backup plan shouldn't include parking on the highway. Remember that it's still incredibly important to maintain a safe physical distance, and the more full a parking lot is, the harder that may be. It's a big state, with a lot of areas to enjoy, so please find safe areas to do so.
Camping at rest areas is illegal and those who use the safety areas should limit them
 to 8 hours for passenger vehicles and 10 hours for commercial vehicles.

Speaking of safe areas

We've heard from travel groups like AAA that this could be a big summer for camping and road trips. Like parking lots at state parks, many camp grounds are already filled up. So a reminder that camping at safety rest areas is illegal.

Rest areas are there for safety, to allow freight haulers and other travelers a place to rest and take a break. The law allows for commercial vehicles to stay at a rest area for 10 hours, and non-commercial travelers to stay for eight hours.

It is not legal for people to set up tents and other sleeping accommodations at a rest area. Does it happen? Yes. We work with the Washington State Patrol to enforce those laws but there's a lot happening all over the state and law enforcement has to prioritize what it can get to.

We need the parking lots of rest areas to stay relatively clear to allow for those who need them for safety to be able to access them and for our crews to be able to maintain the facilities. We can't have them filled up with campers.

We want everyone to be able to have a safe summer. Please follow the parking and camping rules, whether at a park or a rest area, and we can all enjoy the wonderful parts of our state before the rainy season moves back in.


Lovebug41652 said...

To Whom It May Concern !
I live in Gold Bar 18 years and this traffic is getting out of control you need to put your heads together and Finish the hwy up I no th he mountains like it w a z suppose t o go in the first place I sit in traffi. On hwy 522 and hwy 2 every day fi c this now

Rick said...

Exactly traffic sucks on the weekends, also the Kellogg lake off highway 2 is bad filtering on to sultan basin rd.Being a resident of sultan and living here since 1999,I think its time to leave,unfortunately. Something needs to be done asap before it gets really bad

SkyGoddess said...

I live in Sultan up the Basin Rd for 15 years and we are becoming prisoners of our homes because of traffic congestion; it is not just Thurs/Fri nights eastbound & Sun’s consistently heavy! Let me point out that Eagle Falls DOES NOT have a designated parking lot! If you look up swimming holes in Wa; Eagle Falls is considered the 4th EPIC location! Yet 3 recent deaths doesn’t stop people...or the swift water rescues daily.....or the fact that your parking along a highway.....’s a flowing RIVER not a lake so “floats” aren’t sensible. We like our firefighters so please stop risking their lives while they rescue you! Accidents happen; stupidity is self taught.

Popogeejoe said...


Cisco said...

Eagle Falls is out of control. People are parked like morons all up and down the highway. Traffic is awful there. They are waking right on the shoulder. It’s amateur hour there people getting hurt every weekend. Those pics were talking an hour or so after we passed. Traffic was so backed up in gold bar and sultan the emergency vehicles could hardly get by.

Mom24Bostons said...

Highway 2 in Gold Bar the traffic is so bad that even on a Tuesday at 12 noon it takes forever to find a gap in traffic heading west, without taking your life in your own hands. Traffic has not only increased, so has the speed. After living here for 14 years we are almost prisoners trapped in our homes. If we need to go west into Monroe we have to leave early, before the ridiculous traffic starts. Something desperately needs to be done to fix this problem asap!

Mtwigg said...

As usual, the government is at least 25 years behind on what they need to do with Hwy 2. At the very least, there needs to be more center turn lanes. They have been thinking on this way too long. The amount of traffic on Hwy 2 between Everett and Baring would rival I-5 almost any time now. The only real thing they ever seen to get done is some paving and that is not answering any of the real problems. 40 years ago we rented a house the State had purchased up off Hwy 2 just out of Snohomish on property we were told at the time was meant for a new Hwy project. 40 YRS!!! and yet nothing done there. Ridiculous!!!

keith said...

Maybe law enforcement should start passing out tickets for speeding for once. People fly thru the intersection Of Skykomish and Highway 2 likes its a speed way. start TICKETING!!

keith said...

Ticket people driving too fast . Highway 2 and Skykomish intersection is horrible and WSDOT is responsible for public safety

WSDOT said...

Keith -

Thanks for your feedback. To clarify, Washington State Patrol is in charge of enforcement on state highways. We don’t have the authority to ticket people. We are working with them on these issues but ultimately they have the authority for enforcement.

Unknown said...

I know of what you speak. We have a place in lake Wenatchee we go to often so we are part of the problem. Please know that I purposely slow down through the towns and wave many people out to get across the highway. I hope I can wave you in sometime. I can't solve the problem but I can help.

WSDOT said...

Unknown -

Thanks so much for doing your part! We appreciate all the help we can get out there.

HA1985 said...

I’m on this FB group and a lady was asking if Eagle fall was a safe place for her teens to visit alone with there friends the group was 13-16 years old some ppl that visit there that lived in the city told her it’s a great safe place for teens unsupervised and they should bring a tube blah blah .. I never chime in on those post but I had too ive had a cabin along the skykomish River for 10+ years knowing the dangers of that river but especially eagle falls I told her unless u don’t care about ur children or don’t be surprised if one doesn’t make it back then go ahead as bad as that sounds it’s a death trap my own teens are not allow to go there without me and even that we don’t usually go in the water .. all these ppl need to get ticketed or towed if parked illegal .. or FINE when being rescued I know at Stevens pass ski if u get rescued out of balance it’s a 1k fine how bout do that in all the dangerous river spots maybe ppl will think twice before putting their own & rescuers life’s in danger

Unknown said...

Wow just incredible how behind our state is in engineering and infrastructure of roads. Other states put money into roads aka keeping their economy moving as well.

Maryann said...


Unknown said...

Thank you! I live in just outside Sultan & the drive in to the ranch is right off hwy 2. Sure appreciate it when someone lets me in on the weekend or a nice day when traffic is crazy.

Unknown said...

If rest areas are Safety rest areas,why is the Silver Lake I5 full of campers and there cars blocking access for those needing to use it? It is 95 miles to the next safety rest area, it is a vital rest area for travelers and truck drivers. Please open it up to the people who need for there safety and comfort. Thanks

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