About Us  |  Contact Us  |  FAQ's  |  Newsroom

[design image] green box with curved corner
[design image] green and cream arch

Logo for Respect the River and Respect the Rio programs
Evaluate Our Service

We welcome your comments on our service and your suggestions for improvement.


Questions about this website?

Email the webmaster

Respect the River/Rio — Recreationists

Off-Highway Vehicle Use

Illustration of jeep showing mudded tracks



A stimulating and thought-provoking 7-minute video produced by the Forest Service about off-highway vehicle use. Available for download in three formats - high (67Mb MPEG), medium (24Mb MOV), and low (2.5Mb WMV) quality. The high quality video will take longest to download (three hours on a standard phone line and 15 to 25 minutes over a network or cable modem), but looks and sounds the best. A free Windows Media Player or Apple Quicktime Player are required to view the video.

Mudding brochure (269Kb PDF file - Requires Adobe Acrobat viewer)

Go to the Tread Lightly! website for more information.

We value public land for a variety of uses, among them the opportunity to take ourselves and our vehicles off the paved highway and into a natural setting. Off road vehicles are permitted on designated trails and roads within the National Forest system. These trails and roads are built specifically to minimize the impact of vehicles on fragile ecosystems, such as meadows and streams. Many trails are maintained by four-wheel drive associations, and are prime examples of citizens acting as stewards of pubic land. For more detailed information about OHV policy, please see the U.S. Forest Service's Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Program as a reference.


Please keep motorized vehicles on designated trails or roads, away from rivers and creeks. OHVs in these areas cause damage to fisheries and wildlife habitat, soils and clean water.

Ground always covered by shallow water or with saturated soil is generally considered a wetland. Certain types of vegetation (cattails or marsh grass, for example) adapted to life in wet conditions are indicators of a wetland area. Avoid low spots and watercourses that could lead to wetlands. Stay on the designated trails to help protect wetlands.

Wetlands provide:

  • Critical wildlife habitat
  • Erosion and flood control
  • Natural water purification
  • Special types of recreation


Remember... mudding is illegal, and it is destroying your backyard.

What is the difference between acceptable use of off-highway vehicles and "mudding"?

  • Off-highway vehicles are permitted on designated trails within the National Forest system. These trails are built specifically to minimize the impact of vehicles on fragile ecosystems, such as meadows and streams. Many trails are maintained by four-wheel drive associations, and are prime examples of citizens acting as stewards of public land.
  • Mudding is when you drive through wet meadows, fields, streams, or lakeshores. Mudding is also driving on roads that have not yet dried out from snowmelt in the spring and early summer.

What's wrong with mudding?

  • Mudding rips up native plants.
  • A mud hole found on the Umitilla Natonal Forest
    • When plants are gone, there is nothing to stop soil from washing into nearby streams and lakes. Muddy streams and lakes are bad for fish, wildlife, irrigators, recreationists, and towns dependent upon water and tourism for survival.
    • When native plants are gone, noxious weeds move in. A meadow of native grasses and flowers may soon become a field of thistles and knapweed.
    • Mudding compacts soil.
    • Healthy soil should bounce a bit when you walk on it. Tire tracks create hard, dried up soil. This hard soil doesn't allow water to move into the ground. Instead, water runs down tire tracks and into creeks and lakes, bringing mud and pollutants with it.
    • It is hard for plants to grow in compacted soil-imagine trying to extend your legs through a concrete floor.
  • Mudding smothers fish.
    • Salmon and trout need cold streams with gravel and cover to build their nests and bury their eggs. Young fish grow up in between the gravel, safe from predators. Driving through streams destroys gravel areas, and can smother young fish.
  • Mudding harms wildlife.
    • Meadows and wetlands provide important breeding, rearing, and foraging habitats for many birds and other animals. When vehicles tear up these areas, they remove nesting and hiding cover, decrease available forage, interfere with feeding, and push animals out into areas where they may not survive. The damage affects wildlife from the largest elk to the smallest shrew, and from bald eagles to hummingbirds.
  • Mudding is expensive.
    • The repair work for recent mudding in a wet meadow near Ellensburg, Washington was estimated at $4000. Multiply that by the number of impacted meadows across the country, and you can see that the cost to taxpayers is immense. Each year, managers of public lands must spend time and money repairing roads damaged by illegal early season drivers.

What happens if you are caught mudding?

  • Under 36 Code of Federal Regulations 261.13, section h: "It is prohibited to operate any vehicle off Forest Development, State or County roads... in a manner which damages or unreasonably disturbs the land, wildlife, or vegetative resources."
  • You could be fined up to $5000. In addition, the U.S. Forest Service may bring a civil suit against you to pay for the costly restoration.

What can you do to help?

  • Tell your friends, neighbors, family members and classmates that you don't appreciate them destroying your public land.
  • Recognize that mud on a truck often means damaged habitat and the need for repairs that will be costly to all taxpayers.
  • Seek out areas where the use of off-highway vehicles is permitted, and get involved with the groups that maintain those areas. Make sure you are using the right trail for your vehicle-there are signs posted at the trailheads.
  • When you see mudding activity, call local law enforcement authorities.

Please see Camping and Picnicking for additional information.

Pack it in, pack it out


U.S. Forest Service
Last modified: April 12, 2012

[graphic] USDA logo, which links to the department's national site. [graphic] Forest Service logo, which links to the agency's national site. [graphic] A link to the US Forest Service home page. USDA Logo Forest Service Shield EPA logo NM Environment Department