NORTH BEND, Wash. - A popular campground and riverfront campsites are closed for the remainder of the summer due to aggressive bear encounters.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has closed the Middle Fork Campground northeast of North Bend and a stretch of dispersed campsites between Pratt River Bar and Garfield Ledges Parking lot along Forest Road 56, after reports of "ongoing human conflicts with black bears."
The campsite closures also extend along Forest Road 5640 to Snoqualmie Lake Trailhead.
During the summer months, the campsites are always full because its natural beauty—and Seattle is within an hour’s drive.
Bill Sullivan among those who claimed to encounter an aggressive black bear, saying it happened three weeks ago while camping at one of the dispersed sites along the Pratt River.
"I got charged by one," he told FOX 13 News.
It happened after he inadvertently left some meat bones in the campsite’s firepit.
"I noticed the bear was hanging around. I can see it over there, I was like, ‘Get out of here,’ it wasn't afraid," said Sullivan. "It came down to my ankle and did a snort, scared the heck out of me."
Snoqualmie District Ranger Martie Schramm said the USFS closed the area on Monday because people had been careless about leaving food on picnic tables and their cars with food inside "unsecured".
"The bears were becoming too comfortable, especially around the campers," said Schramm. "It’s been very easy for the bears to get after that food."
"I think it’s a good thing," said Robert Orlando, who the day at one of the riverside campsites. "A lot of people come up here and they don't realize it's a wilderness, that it's wild, it's primitive, and we are sharing space with inhabitants of this area."
No camping signs are now posted at all the dispersed campsites along the road, the entrance to the Middle Fork Campground is closed, and there are many warning signs of bear sightings in the area.
The zone is only closed to tent and car camping. Hiking, biking, fishing and day use is still allowed.
"I just brought my parents up here to picnic," said Karyn Higgins, pointing toward the no camping sign. "We might head down that way, instead of going that way; I don't want to see an aggressive bear."
In the coming weeks, USFS will be installing new bear-proof food storage bins at all the campsites in the area. The large all-steel bins feature a latch that only humans are able to figure out how to use.
"I’ve been [here] for nine years, and this is the first time we've had a closure like this," said Schramm.
She says black bears have been unusually active in the forest this year, but did not say why.
"We have an obligation to make sure we are protecting the public as well as the wildlife, we didn't want to take a chance," she said.
Sullivan, who said he’s been living and camping in the area for decades, has chosen to stay in his van ever since his bear encounter.
"I just sleep in my van, cause after getting charged—man, that scare the bajeebies out of me!"