Southwestern Oregon hiking trail reopens after 20 years

By OPB staff (OPB)
July 14, 2022 12:14 a.m.

Volunteer group rebuilt trail destroyed by 2002 Biscuit Fire

A remote hiking trail in Southern Oregon is back open after a volunteer-led restoration effort.

The Illinois River National Recreation Trail in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness was devastated by the 500,000-acre Biscuit Fire in 2002.

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The proliferation of brush, erosion and fire-killed logs called “jackstraws” made the trail basically impassable following the blaze.

Members of the Siskiyou Mountain Club worked to restore the trail, which connects the Oregon communities of Selma and Agness.

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“It was like whack-a-mole,” said Gabriel Howe, the group’s executive director, in a statement announcing the reopening. “You’d clear one section, and 10 or 15 miles down the trail, another trail section would fill in.”

A volunteer trail crew for the Siskiyou Mountain Club hikes through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

A volunteer trail crew for the Siskiyou Mountain Club hikes through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. The trail has reopened 20 years after the Biscuit Fire.

Ian McCluskey / OPB

Howe started clearing trees as part of the restoration work in 2008 alongside a group of volunteers.

The 30-mile National Recreation Trail is a challenging, remote hike, traversing the northern portion of the 180,000-acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

The trails were originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.

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