Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service
SWITCHBACKS destroyed by a large slide on Larch Mountain Trail to Wakheena. Many trails remain closed in the Eagle Creek fire area due to poor safety conditions after the wildfire.
As of Tuesday, January 30, 2018
More than 14,500 acres of forest land that were closed after the Eagle Creek fire have been unlocked to the public.
Mt. Hood National Forest officials on Friday reduced the closure area from 54,892 acres to 40,354. Most of the closure remains in effect — and the reopened section doesn’t include the popular Interstate 84 corridor.
The 48,000-acre fire is no longer active, but hazards remain in burned trees, falling rocks and landslides, according to a Forest Service report. The “mosaic” burn left swaths of scorched vegetation but also much greenery.
The Forest Service said the updated closure balances the amount of public access while prioritizing safety for the public and its employees. More closure area adjustments will come when safety issues have been mitigated.
Hood River District Ranger Janeen Tervo said, “It’s important to orchestrate adjustments/reductions to the fire area closure in concert with the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area; and as this fire has shown, fire knows no boundaries.”
Tervo said, “We’re hand-in-hand while managing the area closures on the MHNF and the CRGNSA and we will continue to work together on fire recovery, area closure security and safety issues into the future.”
Some well-known sites have been reopened through the closure reduction, including Wahtum Lake campground, Rainy Lake campground, and parts of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Much of the Mt. Hood National Forest and the western Gorge in general remain closed to public access. The total burned area included 140 miles of state and federal trails from Bridal Veil Falls to Starvation Creek.
Early results from a Forest Service trails assessment found that trails west of Multnomah Falls are in the poorest shape after the fire, while many east of Cascade Locks fared better. Some of the least harmed were Gorge 400 Trail, Gorton Creek Trail, Herman Creek Trail, Ridge Cutoff 437, and the Pacific Crest Trail. Repair work has begun on some of the trails already, but none of them yet has an expected reopening date.
Authorities have dealt with illegal access issues, citing people who unlawfully enter the fire closure area. The trespassers have posed a risk for emergency and Search and Rescue responders.
Visitors can find information about post-fire recovery on the Scenic Area’s “Eagle Creek Fire Response” webpage, bit.ly/eaglecreekfireresponse.
Anyone planning to recreate in the general area is strongly encouraged to “know before you go” and check closure updates on Mt. Hood National Forest and Gorge National Scenic Area websites, weather and trail conditions.
Oregon Parks and Recreation District will hold presentations, titled, "Looking Beyond the Ashes," with photos and details of the state parks and trailheads affected by the fire. Attendees will learn about the stages of post-forest recovery and how to volunteer to rebuild trails, and restore the forest.
Presentations are scheduled as follows:
Saturday, Feb. 3: 6:30-8:30 p.m., Thunder Island Brewing Company in Cascade Locks.
Thursday, Feb. 15: 6:30-8 p.m., McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale.
Hikers still can enjoy some destinations. Alternative trails — most notably in Washington and the eastern Gorge — are posted at Friends of the Columbia Gorge’s website, www.gorgefriends.org.
Reopened area details
Forest Service Road 1310 is closed to motorized vehicles from the intersection with F.S. Road 1311 all the way to the Eagle Creek fire closure boundary, near Wahtum Lake. F.S. Road 1310 remains open to foot traffic past the closure point until the closure boundary — which is also the Wilderness boundary.
The Forest Service selected the 1310/1311 intersection as the beginning of the FS Road 1310 closure as a good turn around or parking spot.
Wahtum Lake Campground, as well as Rainy Lake Campground are open, and the Indian Springs Campground is open and accessible via foot traffic. The distance between the closure point on F.S. Road 1310 and Wahtum Lake Campground is about 5 miles. The campgrounds are open but the lakes themselves are not. The campgrounds are located outside of the Wilderness and the Eagle Creek fire closures area, while the lakes are within the Wilderness and fire closure area. The Lake Loop Trail is within the closure area and closed to entry as well.