National Forest Foundation

Columbia River Gorge – Working to Reopen Hiking Trails after the Eagle Creek Fire

NFF Grant Partners and Projects

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To many, the Eagle Creek Fire that burned nearly 50,000 acres in the Columbia River Gorge was a devastating loss. Many people have memories exploring the Gorge’s beautiful waterfalls, hiking trails and wildflowers and are wondering how the fire impacted favorite recreation sites. 

The good news is that the fire’s impact was relatively light in the Gorge. While the fire was human caused, fires are a natural part of many forested ecosystems, including in the Gorge. 

The U.S. Forest Service reports that 55 percent of the area did not burn or burned at a low severity not killing any trees. 30 percent of the fire burned moderately and only 15 percent burned at a high severity. What does this mean? While some parts of the forest will look different for many years, many places in the Gorge were not heavily impacted by the fire will recover on its own over time.

Photo by Ryan Brizendine, Pacific Crest Trail Association

Resprouting fern. 

Since almost 90 percent of the fire burned in the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness Area, the U.S. Forest Service will not plant trees and instead they will be allowed to naturally grow back on their own in the Wilderness Area. 

However, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to make the area safe for the public to visit the recreation areas in the Gorge and the NFF is helping with the efforts to reopen this special place.

Ten days after the fire started we created the Eagle Creek Fire Restoration Fund to accept donations to help restore the Gorge once the fire was out. We have received contributions from businesses both large and small, local garden clubs and middle schools and individuals in 28 states! The Gorge is special to many people and their contributions reflect their interest in giving back to a place they care deeply about. 

Photo courtesy of Trailkeepers of Oregon

Serious work ahead. 

The Forest Service estimates that work will be needed over the next few years to rebuild trails, eradicate invasive weeds and continue to monitor the area for landslides and rockslides. Therefore, we will continue to accept contributions to reopen more trails and support the restoration of this beloved area. 

The majority of the fire perimeter in the Gorge is still closed to the public as the Forest Service works to make it safe for people to return and explore the area’s new look. It is unclear when the trails will be open to public use.  Before you try to visit your favorite trailhead be sure to look at the Forest Service’s website to see if it is open and, if not, where else you might go for hike.

If you are wondering what the area looks like today, check out a cool virtual reality video documentary (360 degree filming) created by a local film company, 360 Labs

The documentary includes footage of work that is being done to reopen hiking trails and make them safe for people to enjoy and witness the Gorge regrow and develop into a new look after the fire.

Thank you to those who have supported the restoration efforts in the Gorge. Your contribution will help reopen the Gorge to recreation sooner and will allow us to explore the area once again. 


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