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Originally published November 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 16, 2008 at 8:06 AM

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Yurts make winter camping easy in Oregon and Washington

Stacy Savona recalled it was a typical winter night on the Oregon coast. Winds were gusting and the rain was coming down, but she remained...

Medford Mail Tribune

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Oregon State Parks: To get details on yurts, see www.oregon.gov/oprd/parks or phone 800-452-5687 for reservations.

Stacy Savona recalled it was a typical winter night on the Oregon coast. Winds were gusting and the rain was coming down, but she remained high and dry in her yurt at William M. Tugman State Park near Reedsport.

Savona stayed comfortably in one of the park's yurts, the heavy-canvas, circular tents that have been installed for overnight rentals at campgrounds in state parks in Oregon, Washington and beyond.

"It's kind of neat because you're not really in a building and you get a different experience than being in the outdoors," says Savona, of Brooking, Ore., who also has stayed in a yurt at Oregon's Valley of the Rogue State Park.

"Probably the biggest reason people like to stay in them is that you don't have to pack a tent and set up camp," she said.

Oregon's use of yurts in state parks — particularly on the coast — has been a boon for winter campers and for people with disabilities, says Becky Kemery of Sandpoint, Idaho, author of "Yurts: Living in the Round."

"They are very easy and accessible. They make such a nice cross between (tent) camping and cabins," she says.

Rates for yurts in Oregon parks start at $27-$30 a night.

The physical structure of the yurt, with its fabric shell and rounded interior, also makes them appealing, Kemery said.

Chris Havel, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, agrees. He's stayed in many yurts and describes the time inside as "magical" at any time of the year.

Craig Tutor, the former Northwest regional supervisor for Oregon parks, got the ball rolling on yurts in state campgrounds back in the early 1990s. He was inspired by state-run cabins in Minnesota and then saw a yurt display by Pacific Yurts of Cottage Grove at the Oregon State Fair.

Tutor persuaded parks-department brass to order two 14-foot yurts for Oregon's Cape Lookout State Park, and their popularity was instant, he says.

"We did no advertising and they were full all the time," Tutor recalls. "It's a great product. They captured everyone's imagination," he says.

Currently there are 190 yurts in Oregon parks, with about 170 on the coast.

Havel says the state has scaled back on yurt acquisitions over the past several years to catch up on building simple cabins at state campgrounds. There are roughly 60 cabins in Oregon campgrounds, renting from about $35 per night.

""The only negative I hear is that they're difficult ... to get a reservation" because of their popularity, says Peter Dolan, customer-service specialist at Pacific Yurts, which has made the structures since 1978.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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