It has been several months since the Eagle Creek Fire ripped through the Columbia River Gorge. In that time popular hiking trails have remained closed, damaged by the fire.
On Monday morning, there was a bit of good news in the restoration efforts. The U.S. Forest Service opened the lower viewing platform to Multnomah Falls.
In the weeks prior, the closest a visitor could get to one of Oregon’s most popular attractions was Multnomah Lodge.
“It’s pretty amazing,” visitor Allison Quibuyen said. She was one of the hundreds of people who stopped at the falls on the sunny Monday afternoon.
“It is just a beautiful giant waterfall,” Malena Lechon Galdos said.
The viewing platform was closed on Sept. 4, 2017, days after the Eagle Creek Fire started.
“We got super lucky since it is the first day it is open, I had no idea, we just drove and were hoping for the best, but I am super bummed we can’t walk up,” Lechon Galdos said.
The Forest Service says the trail to the famed Benson Bridge will stay closed until the next round of repairs are finished. The Shady Creek Bridge has to be rebuilt and rocks and debris cleared from about 90 percent of the Larch Mountain Trail.
The Forest Service is hoping to have access to the Benson Bridge reopened by Summer 2018
“It was cool because I had never been to Oregon before so even just seeing, like, we are only here for a couple days but it was cool to be able to see it,” Felicia Duenas said.
The Forest Service reported that the lodge, restaurant, gift shop, and snack bar reopened on Nov. 29, 2017, but the platform remained closed due to the need to rebuild a rock catchment fence which was damaged during the fire by falling debris and trees.
The reconstruction of the fence was completed late last week, and the new fence will protect visitors on the platform from trees or rocks that may fall from the hillside. The U.S. Forest Service also hired contractors to fell hazard trees and conduct rock scaling, measures which will limit the amount of dangerous debris that can fall unexpectedly.
A six-mile section of the Historic Columbia River Highway from Bridal Veil to Ainsworth State Park remains closed with no timeline for re-opening. Rocks and trees continue to fall on the road and ODOT will keep the road closed until it can safely re-open. Nearby Benson State Recreation Area will also remain closed to protect public safety.
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