One late-summer day in 2017, travesty befell the beloved Columbia River Gorge…in the form of a bottle rocket. By now, a year later, the abbreviated story is well known in all corners of the country: Several careless teens spent the afternoon of September 2 amusing themselves with drugstore fireworks during a burn ban and ended up scorching 48,831 acres of protected national scenic area. It took over 1,000 personnel three months to declare it fully contained, and the scarring and indefinite trail closures continue to be a harrowing reminder.
The eulogies poured in, lamenting the destruction imparted on favorite trails and nostalgic spaces. But, as time passes and scientists are able to put puzzle pieces together, the reality that emerges is quite optimistic. Of all the forest within the fire perimeter, 55% either wasn’t burned or sustained low burn intensity, while 30% experienced moderate burn intensity (per Oregon Live). Take a closer look at the roasted areas and you’ll find a prolific, albeit tiny, blanket of grasses and shrubs re-emerging while post-fire flora like fireweed and morels thrive.
That said, the heat and destructiveness that the worst of the fire brought incinerated tree roots, completely destabilized hillsides, and caused damage that can’t easily be mopped up. While some trails have reopened and some are slated to be accessible by the end of 2018, there’s a lengthy list of trails that currently do not have a timeline for reopening. For the complete up-to-date list, keep an eye on the Friends of the Columbia River Gorge. Or, take a peek below.
There’s an especially pertinent quote from Fred Rogers making its rounds as of late: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'" There continue to be people working tirelessly to revive the protected spaces and important ecosystems of the Columbia River Gorge. Show your support in a donation to the Eagle Creek Restoration Fund if you can.
Finally, this should go without saying, but please stay off closed trail. So far, an absurd number of turnarounds, warnings, and citations have been documented. Do your research, and respect the closures.
Benson Plateau Loop
Dry Creek Falls
Herman Creek Pinnacles Hike
Indian Point Hike Via Herman Creek Trailhead
Mosier Creek Falls + Plateau Trail
Sandy River Delta
The Dalles Waterfront Trail
Bridal Veil Falls State Park
Memaloose Hills Trail
Rooster Rock State Park
Starvation Ridge Waterfall Loop Hike
Bell Creek Loop
Eagle Creek to High Bridge
Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls
Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls
Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake
Green Point Ridge
Horsetail Falls Loop
Horsetail, Ponytail & Triple Falls
Multnomah - Wahkeena Falls Loop, Franklin Ridge Loop
Oneonta Gorge to Lower Oneonta Falls
Shepperds Dell Falls