Flying in State Parks


After my trip to Shoshone Falls I thought about capturing sites in Washington State so I looked into flying in State parks.  I thought about camp grounds, where a 3D Model and more detailed 2D Mapping would be something many people might find useful.

Much to my surprise I discovered that in Washington State my idea would be very expensive and difficult to accomplish.  Luckily Oregon is embracing drones and addressing their use in parks with policies that make sense.

Washington State

In Washington you don’t fly in a State park without planning and paying.  They have the rules that you must submit a request with a $100 fee detailing date, time, and place(s) along with all the details and proof of 1 million dollars insurance.  I read that if you are not flying as a recreational pilot it is only a $25 fee and doesn’t require insurance but otherwise it is the same application used for commercial filming and photography.   I would have thought that filing for a commercial filming permit would only be required if it required restricting access during filming or doing something that could interfere with normal park use.  Drones may need to be restricted in some situations but it seems there is absolutely no acceptance of them in Washington State Parks.

Oregon is providing guidance and collecting valuable information by their policy of clearly stating parks cannot fly along with ones where it is clearly stated you can fly.  I believe when people start seeing the occasional drones in those areas it will become clear they are not disruptive and drones will become more accepted.

Oregon State

Covered briefly in this article Leslie Knope the Oregon state parks director says, “Our approach is that at some parks you can do it any time without talking to park staff first. There are other parks where, before you start, you need to talk to park staff — you need permission. And last, there are some parks where it’s not allowed at all. That three-tiered approach has worked well. It’s predictable, all published online and people can find the information before going out. That’s where we’re going. That’s the format.”

That is supported by the ‘Can I fly my drone in the park?’  answer on the Dabney State Recreation Area page which also includes other parks along the Columbia River Gorge.  I couldn’t find any other park listed so I don’t know if this is the complete list, but it is nice to know there are place you can and cannot fly for certain!

It is also possible to obtain a Special Use Permit.  “UAS may be authorized in “Prohibited” Oregon State Park properties under agreed upon conditions, with a valid Special Use Permit signed by the park manager.”  This appears to be similar to the Washington process required to fly any drone.

Washington vs Oregon

The contrast between Washington and Oregon is dramatic.  I hope Washington State follows Oregon and address drone use in a more reasonable manor.  I believe a drone is simply another camera, will be used responsibly as any expensive camera gear is now, and is not disruptive.

I am trying to capture moments in nature through cinematography.  State parks have a lot of great scenery that people have seen and parks benefit from compelling videos and images.  A drone offers new perspectives to all of that beauty especially when it includes areas a person has seen for themselves, or is going to see.

Oregon Coast

As far as I can tell there are no restrictions flying drones on the Oregon Coast. I’ve had good luck from the ground with a Polarized ND filter in the evening sun so I am excited about the possibilities.


My trip to Shoshone Falls opened my eyes to a beautiful area for a drone video tour and Idaho doesn’t seem to have any restrictions on drones despite being one of the state that has laws about drones.  They restrict governmental use for surveillance and clearly prohibiting their use in hunting.  So it appears Idaho is wide open and there are lots of beautiful areas to fly there.


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