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Fire Update: Gorge Trails Still Closed; Repairs to Come

Posted by Anna Roth at Jan 26, 2018 10:30 AM |

The Eagle Creek Fire cut short the hiking season on the Oregon side of the Gorge. Now the Forest Service is working on plans for the future of trails in the area.

Last year's Eagle Creek Fire burned over some of the most loved trails in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, cutting hiking season in the Gorge short and leaving questions about the recovery and future of the area. But this winter, the Forest Service has been hard at work, evaluating trails affected by the fire and beginning to formulate a plan for the future of the area.

beargrass_usfs.JPGTufts of beargrass push up from a section of the burn area. Photo courtesy USFS.

Still closed, repairs scheduled

As of last week, Forest Service teams had completed an evaluation of the fire's effects on 22 miles of trails. Despite the visually arresting photos of the fire as it burned, crews observed a range of conditions on trail, from heavily-damaged sections to relatively low-burn severity.

Recovery will take time, and there is currently no anticipated reopening date for the area, but the agency plans to work with volunteers to speed the timeline for opening trails. Repair work has already begun on some trails, even as crews continue to evaluate other areas.

Though normally the U.S. Forest Service does not conduct trail repair or maintenance during winter, due to the cyclical nature of damage from winter storms, the agency will work with select volunteers who will help speed the timeline for opening trails. By working together, we can get more done quickly.

fire-collage.jpgDamage (left and middle) and repair work (right) on some of the trails affected by the Eagle Creek Fire. Photos courtesy USFS.

Crews have noted post-fire hazards, including still smoldering stump holes, standing dead trees weakened by fire and loosened boulders and logs, which can fall downhill without warning. Additionally, rock fall and debris flow across trails, and washouts, landslides, and heavily burned areas are of concern, so the entire Eagle Creek Fire area remains closed to public travel.  

When Can I Hike There?

While trail repairs are under way, there are no projected opening dates for any of the trails in the Eagle Creek Fire perimeter. Winter weather continues to affect trails weakened by the burn. Rain, snow, wind and freeze-thaw cycles mean that landslide and rock fall may occur within the burned area, and visitors are reminded to stay out of the closure area.

What is Closed?

The closure area includes The Columbia River Historic Highway and all trails east of Sandy River Delta on the Oregon side of the scenic area. More information on the full area closure can be found at Eagle Creek Fire Closure.

forest-service-closure.jpg
The closure area from the Eagle Creek Fire is largely in the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness area. Map courtesy USFS

Is Anything Open? 

Multnomah Falls Lodge is, and it is accessible via the I-84 parking lot.

Additionally, trails on the Washington side of the scenic area are also open, including Cape Horn and Augspurger Mountain. You might also consider visiting Catherine Creek or Lyle Cherry Orchard, or simply browsing WTA's Hiking Guide for other inspiration in Southwest Washington.

Due to many trails in the Gorge being closed, visitor use has been higher at these Washington locations. Please consider carpooling when planning your hikes
to these popular sites.

What does the future hold? 

No decisions have been made yet to redesign or reroute any trails. Any proposals to redesign, reroute or decommission trails will include public comment opportunities as part of the decision process.

The U.S. Forest Service will continue working with partners and the public on a vision for long-term trail sustainability in the Gorge. This will include opportunities to give input about the future of recreation within the Columbia River Gorge as part of the Gorge 2020 Management Plan Review.

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