Some Gorge trails could reopen this spring after Eagle Creek Fir - KPTV - FOX 12

Some Gorge trails could reopen this spring after Eagle Creek Fire, others may take years

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COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, OR (KPTV) -

The U.S. Forest Service updated the condition of trails in the Columbia River Gorge that were damaged by the massive Eagle Creek Fire, with some in treacherous shape that could take years to repair.

Crews reported Friday they have made progress assessing more than 20 miles of trails on National Forest System lands within the burn area. Conditions ranged from low-burn severity to areas where washouts, landslides and heavily burned sections make the trails hard to follow.

Among trails assessed so far, those that fared best include parts of Gorge 400 Trail, Gorton Creek Trail, Herman Creek Trail, Ridge Cutoff 437, and the Pacific Crest Trail. Repair work is underway on some of those trails, but there is still not a timeline for reopening them.

Crews also confirmed that the Upper Viewing Platform at Multnomah Falls survived the fire intact.

Some trails have fared substantially worse. About 90 percent of the popular Larch Mountain Trail that starts at Multnomah Falls is covered with rocks along its route to the Upper Viewing Platform and is in poor shape through the loop with Wahkeena Trail.

The Nick Eaton Trail is badly burned and difficult to follow, with up to 75 percent of the trail needing repairs.

The rock wall at the base of the short Return Trail from Wahkeena Trail to Multnomah Falls has been undercut due to burned vegetation and rock slides.

The Horsetail-Oneonta Loop Hike is in treacherous shape, with large washouts and landslides making the trail difficult to follow.

Crews were unable to complete their assessment of Wahclella Trail, which is also in poor condition.

Recreation officials are hopeful that some of the federal trails east of Cascade Locks may be able to reopen this spring and summer, but no specific timeframe is available and work is highly weather dependent. New landslides and washouts could cause setbacks by creating further damage.

Trails west of Multnomah Falls, currently in poor condition, are a high priority for repair due to their popularity. Timelines for reopening west end trails remain uncertain, as they will need intensive repair and rebuilding.

Finally, trails within the core area of the fire between Multnomah Falls and Herman Creek were the most severely burned and some trails may take several years to reopen.

Many of the remaining trails in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area will not be assessed until the winter freeze, thaw cycle and heavy rains have subsided in late spring.

The U.S. Forest Service is teaming up with the newly formed Gorge Trails Recovery Team and other partners to involve experienced volunteers in trail repair.

For volunteer information, go to fs.usda.gov/main/crgnsa/workingtogether.

For findings from each trail assessment, go to fs.usda.gov/goto/crgnsa/ongoingresponsework.

The teen accused of starting the Eagle Creek Fire, which started in September and burned more than 48,000 acres, is set to appear in court next month. 

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