On a recent hike on the Wahkeena Trail in the Columbia Gorge, an area impacted by the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017, it was clear – nature is rebounding. As I hiked I could see char marks on the bases of large Douglas-fir trees and logs on the forest floor that were burnt indicating that fire had passed through this part of the Gorge. Yet most of the trees were still alive and the forest floor was green with new plants. Many vine maples had branches that were completely burnt, but at their base, new branches had emerged from the soil. Without the black marks on trees it would have been difficult to know that fire had swept through this area.
The Wahkeena Trail makes up one part of the 60 miles of trails that the NFF helped reopen in 2018 through the Eagle Creek Fire Restoration Fund. Reopening the trails allows people to explore the Gorge and see how plants and trees are recovering after the fire. However, some areas of the Gorge experienced more severe fire and are prone to rock slides making them unsafe to reopen. USDA Forest Service trail crews and expert volunteers are working to reopen more trails but they can be very unstable. The Pacific Crest Trail Association recorded a video of a rock slide on the Eagle Creek Trail, showing how dangerous these trails can be.
The Forest Service estimates that some trails may be closed for a few years due to the instability. Yet the work to reopen the remaining 30% of the trails continues. The NFF anticipates helping reopen 27 miles of trails this year with our partner, Trailkeepers of Oregon. We anticipate dead trees or snags will continue to fall across trails and need to be removed. With this ongoing need we will keep the supporting trail repair and clearing efforts into the future. For those interested in helping please consider donating to the Eagle Creek Fire Restoration Fund to support our efforts to reopen access to the trails in the Gorge. The Columbia Gorge area allows Portland locals access to critical green space and outdoor recreation opportunities.
As the non-profit partner to the U.S. Forest Service, the NFF is a 501c3 organization and all contributions are tax deductible. For every $1 that is donated, $0.85 will go to on the ground restoration efforts.