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Environment | Forestry | Northwest Wildfires 2017

Eagle Creek Fire Puts Popular Gorge Trails Off Limits Until Spring


Jess Dustow from Sydney, Australia, was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail when the Eagle Creek Fire broke out near Cascade Locks Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017.

Jess Dustow from Sydney, Australia, was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail when the Eagle Creek Fire broke out near Cascade Locks Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017.

Conrad Wilson/OPB

Don’t expect to take in the stellar views from the top of Angel’s Rest anytime soon.

That’s just one of popular hiking trails in the Columbia River Gorge that lies inside the perimeter of the Eagle Creek wildfire (see complete list below).

Rachel Pawlitz of the Gorge National Scenic Area says some of the best-known trails in the Gorge – including Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls, Larch Mountain and, of course, Eagle Creek – will be off limits at least until spring.

With fire sending dead trees tumbling down steep slopes, she says, you wouldn’t want to be there anyway.

“Some of them are falling quite a distance, and when they fall they make these loud splintering noises almost like explosions,” she said.

Large boulders once hemmed in by moss and tree roots are also coming down as wildfire cuts them loose.

“The gorge, underneath all that lush green, has rocks and scree that have been covered with trees and moss that we all hike through,” Pawlitz said. “I’m sure some of us can picture it right now.”

The fire is burning the moss off the rocks, “so they’re going to start tumbling down and falling on trails,” she said.

Winter storms and spring rains will also take their toll, so it’ll be a while before officials can assess trail damage and address safety risks.

Pawlitz said six months is the minimum amount of time the trails will be closed.

“I emphasize that’s a minimum because we know the fall rains are going to come,” she said. “That’s going to make the already unstable slopes even less stable. Then we’re going to get winter storms, then spring rains, so there’s going to be a really dynamic and changing landscape over the next six months.”

The first step to reopening the trails, she said, is putting the fire out – and that will take a while in and of itself.

Forest Service closures within the Eagle Creek Fire area:

-  Eagle Creek Campground

- Buck Point Trail (#439)

- Eagle Creek Day Use Area, Eagle Creek Trailhead and Trail (#440)

- Lower Punch Bowl Trail (#440B)

- Metlako Falls Spur Trail (#440A)

- Ruckel Creek Trail (#405)

- Shady Glen Trail (#402A)

- Wauna Viewpoint Trail (#402)

- Herman Creek Trailhead, Deadwood Trail (#422)

- Gorton Creek Trail (#408)

- Herman Bridge Trail (#406E)

- Herman Creek Trail (#406)

- Nick Eaton Trail (#447)

- Ridge Cutoff Trail (#437)

- Tanner Butte Trail (#401)

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