COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, OR (KPTV) – More than three years after the Eagle Creek Fire burned 48,000 acres on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, the Eagle Creek Trail has reopened.
The U.S. Forest Service for Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area announced Friday that many popular trails in the Gorge are now accessible to the public.
To start the new year, trails reopening Friday include the Eagle Creek Trail, the Wahclella Trail, the Gorge 400 Trail (specifically, Eagle Creek to John B. Yeon State Park and Ainsworth State Park to Horsetail Falls), the Larch Mountain Trail between Multnomah Falls and the Wahkeena Trail.
While some trails had been closed to the public due to COVID-19 safety measures in 2020, others had been closed since the Eagle Creek Fire ignited in September 2017.
The Forest Service said Friday that it has worked with Oregon State Parks the last 3 and a half years alongside the Gorge Trails Recovery Team – which includes Pacific Crest Trail Association, Trailkeepers of Oregon, Washington Trails Association, and Friends of the Columbia Gorge – on trail restoration.
The team of employees and volunteers worked “thousands of hours to clear and rebuild trails, cut and move downed trees, replace bridges, rebuild structures, and mitigate invasive species in order to make the trails available for hiking.”
“The reopening of the Eagle Creek Trail and other trails impacted by the Eagle Creek Fire has required working in community with each other and we would not have been able to get to this day without the dedication and service of our key partners and all the agency employees, ” said Lynn Burditt, Forest Supervisor. “On behalf of our interagency team I would like to express our gratitude to the public for your patience and support and to all the volunteers whose unwavering commitment, dedication and resources, facilitated our ability to open these trails today.”
For those wanting to hike in the burn area, they are urged to practice caution. The Forest Service says hikers should consider avoiding areas burned during Eagle Creek Fire during or immediately following high winds, heavy rains, and winter storms, as these conditions can trigger tree fall and landslides.
“While we are very pleased to see the re-opening of this cherished trail system in the gorge, we urge those who choose to explore to employ caution on their outing,” said Hood River County Sheriff Matt English. “Historically, we see a very high volume of search and rescue calls in that area. A large portion of those incidents are avoidable as they have been attributed to lack of preparation or engagement in high-risk behaviors. While you may just plan on a quick hike, we implore recreationists to wear appropriate clothing and bring necessary supplies, preparing for worst case scenarios.”
According to the Forest Service, a closure order for the Eagle Creek Fire affected area remains in place and there are still some trails within the Eagle Creek fire perimeter that remain closed.
Anyone interested in visiting the area should plan around the closures and recreate safely by checking ReadySetGOrge.com before they go.