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Eagle Creek Fire Creates Tough Start To Columbia River Fall Fishing Season


It’s been a tough fall fishing season so far along the Columbia River Gorge.

The Eagle Creek Fire means the season kicked off with a closure between Hood River and Troutdale. And even if you went downriver to fish, the water wasn’t optimal. It was covered in ash and burnt pine needles.

Ed Chin with All About Adventure Excursions watches as a helicopter drops a hose into the Columbia to douse hot spots at the Eagle Creek fire.

Ed Chin with All About Adventure Excursions watches as a helicopter drops a hose into the Columbia to douse hot spots at the Eagle Creek fire.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

Ed Chin works with fishing guide company All About Adventure Excursions along the Columbia River. He’s had to cancel several trips, mainly because of air quality. “It was just so poor that clients didn’t want to come in and

“It was just so poor that clients didn’t want to come in and breathe in the smoke. … Some opted to cancel, which was lost revenue and unrecoverable,” he said.

Chin says he’s been paying a little extra in fuel costs, driving clients to Astoria or Longview to catch fish. But he’s hopeful for the future.

While the water quality is largely back to normal, the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge does not look good.

Forest along the Columbia River Gorge looks a little like a calico cat, with patches of lush green, dried green and scorched black trees.

Forest along the Columbia River Gorge looks a little like a calico cat, with patches of lush green, dried green and scorched black trees.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

There are large swaths of forest, where fire raced up the hillside, burning everything in its path. Some areas are bare earth. In other areas, blackened trees stand like toothpicks, waiting to fall. The needles on many trees have turned completely brown. While the trees still have their branches, they’re dead.

On Thursday, a pair of helicopters took turns dipping hoses into the Columbia River to suck up water, then fly it back to douse fire hot spots. Still, fishing guide Ed Chin says he thinks it’s only going to be a week or so until things get back to normal, “The forest has a unique way of recovering. And I would suspect seeing greenery within the next year,” he said.

People continue to catch fish, despite the Eagle Creek wildfire.

People continue to catch fish, despite the Eagle Creek wildfire.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

“There’s plenty of water and nutrients that have been returned back to the soil from the fire…but the scars of the fire will remain,” Chin said.

He pointed to the Washington side of the river where a wildfire burned west of Smith Cripe Road in 2015. That area is now green and lush.

And even on the Oregon side, among all the smoke and charred forest, there are still big swaths of lush green forest. Firefighters have worked exceptionally hard to save spots like Multnomah Falls. And down the river, homes in the town of Dodson, sit by the river in a green oasis of trees.

The patchwork of wildfire damage surrounding Multnomah Falls is easily visible from the Columbia River.

The patchwork of wildfire damage surrounding Multnomah Falls is easily visible from the Columbia River.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

People can now see the damage for themselves as Interstate 84 westbound has reopened, including ramps into and out of Cascade Locks. The eastbound lanes of I-84 remain closed, with no schedule for reopening.

The fire continues to grow, having consumed 41,550 acres. About 1,000 firefighters are on site, with the fire 28 percent contained as of Friday.

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