Need for trail improvements remains in the Gorge with fire damage, increased use

Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 4:59 PM PDT
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MULTNOMAH COUNTY, Ore. (KPTV) - Trails in the Columbia River Gorge took on a much different look after the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017. But they’ve also gotten much busier since that time.

This means trails are in need of more maintenance. Stanley Hinatsu is in charge of that work as the recreation staff officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

“We have tread maintenance, you have brushing and you have logout,” Hinatsu said. “Sometimes it takes three separate trips to do all three of those.”

Most of the resources are going towards rebuilding trails in the fire area.

“We typically see more slides and rock falls within the burn area,” Hinatsu said. “So those trails that go through there, especially the trails that go through steeper terrain.”

There were also more rescues this summer of hikers exploring all areas of the Gorge.

Brad Stai came to the Gorge recently from North Dakota.

“Once you’re out here, if you’re not coming across other patrons, you really are on your own,” he said.

Stai said he knows the importance of planning and being prepared for your hike. He got an idea of the challenges there are along the way.

“You get a general sense of how much there would be to be kept on top of,” he said.

Full interview with U.S. Forest Service recreation staff officer Stanley Hinatsu

Hinatsu said there are trouble spots they will respond to. But hikers also need to research where they’re going to find out how much risk they want to take on.

“‘I can do that narrow 3,000-foot elevation gain in two miles or, no I’ll just go to Multnomah Falls instead or a flatter trail, or something like that,’” Hinatsu said.

Hinatsu said the most important thing, before taking on the steep and sometimes dangerous trails, is to be prepared.

“Just remember to be prepared, carry the 10 essentials, hike with a buddy, make sure folks know where you’re going and when you’re going to get back,” he said.

The Forest Service said two trails set to open in the Eagle Creek Fire area in the coming weeks are:

  • Nesmith
  • Wyeth

There five other trails that still need to be reopened are:

  • Ruckel Creek
  • Horsetail Creek
  • Bell Creek
  • Moffett Creek
  • Tanner Butte

There are also websites to help with hiking safety from the Forest Service and the Columbia River Gorge.