Category Archives: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Dog Mountain weekend hiker permits return to CRGNSA for peak season

STEVENSON, Wash. March 1, 2019 – For the second year, the USDA Forest Service requires permits for visitors interested in hiking Dog Mountain on weekends during peak wildflower season, which began in mid-April and continues through June 16, 2019.

Visitors can obtain permits one of two ways:

Visitors who board the Skamania County West End Transit bus at Skamania Fairgrounds in Stevenson will receive a free permit on arrival at Dog Mountain Trailhead. The shuttle ride costs $1 per person, per trip ($2 round-trip), and seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Each permit is good for one individual, on the day it is issued. The shuttle runs every half hour, from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through June 16.

Visitors interested in reserving a permit online can submit their request at www.recreation.gov. Dog Mountain hiking permits are offered at no cost, but a $1 per person administrative fee is charged for processing. Visitors parking a vehicle at Dog Mountain Trailhead will also need to pay the recreation site fee of $5 per car for use of the parking area, or present a valid Northwest Forest or interagency federal pass in lieu of the day-use parking permit. Only 250 reservable permits per peak season weekend day are available to limit congestion. Online permits do not guarantee a parking spot, so visitors are encouraged to carpool (or check-out the weekend shuttle service from Skamania Fairgrounds).

The permits are required as part of a partnership between Washington State Department of Transportation, Skamania County, and the Skamania County Chamber of Commerce to protect public safety. The permit program began in 2018, in response to growing safety concerns about congestion and accidents near the Dog Mountain Trailhead.

“Last year’s program was highly successful,” Lynn Burditt, area manager for Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, said, “In fact, many people said they hiked Dog Mountain for the first time last year, because they didn’t have to wake up early to beat crowds into the parking lot.”

Permits will be required for all visitors to the Dog Mountain trail system on Saturdays and Sundays through peak wildflower season (this year, defined as April 20 to June 16), as a measure to prevent congestion at the trailhead by encouraging visitors to take a shuttle.

“We made a few improvements this year – there are more permits available per day, and the administrative fee for online reservations is down to $1 from last year’s cost of $1.50, thanks to a new service provider,” Lorelei Haukness, recreation planner for the scenic area, said.

Dog Mountain Trail System includes both forks of Dog Mountain Trail (#147 and #147C), Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail #147A, and the lower portion of Augspurger Trail #4407.

Each hiker should carry a printed permit or electronic copy of their permit, as Forest Service employees will check for permits at the trailhead.

Back again this year, several businesses in Stevenson will offer discounts to shuttle riders — including Walking Man Brewing, Big River Grill, North Bank Books, Columbia Hardware, and Bits n’ Spurs. Visit Skamania County Chamber of Commerce in Stevenson to learn more about area businesses that are participating.

For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/crgnsa/hikedogmountain or call (541)308-1700.

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area encompasses 292,500 acres of Washington and Oregon, where the Columbia River cuts a spectacular river canyon through the Cascade Mountains. The USDA Forest Service manages National Forest lands in the National Scenic Area and works with the Gorge Commission, states, counties, treaty tribes, and partners to protect and enhance scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Columbia River Gorge while encouraging local economic development consistent with that protection.

Learn more about Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area at www.fs.usda.gov/crgnsa or follow CRGNSA on social media at facebook.com/crgnsa or www.twitter.com/crgnsa.


Source information: The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (press release).

Forest Feature: Sturgeon

Close up image of Herman the Sturgeon's face, in profile

Imagine you’re swimming in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, and you open your eyes and see a 8 ft shadow lurking in the depths.

No, it’s not a shark, it’s a sturgeon – the Acipenser transmontanus!

This ancient family Acipenseridae dates its lineage back to the Triassic period (245-805 million year ago). Despite human interference and over-fishing, it still clings on to existence across the world’s many rivers.

Some examples of the species look absolutely wild… just look at this Chinese paddlefish!

Illustration of a long, slender fish with gray scaled and a long, sword-like face.
Psephurus gladius, also known as the Chinese paddlefish, Chinese swordfish, or elephant fish, is critically endangered in its native China. It is sometimes called the “Giant Panda of the Rivers,” not because of any physical resemblance to a giant panda, but because of its rarity and protected status.
Image from the Muséum d’histoire Naturelle – Nouvelles Archives du Muséum d’histoire Naturelle (public domain).

In the Pacific Northwest, we have two species of sturgeon – the White Sturgeon and Green Sturgeon.

If you visit the Bonneville Dam fish hatchery, located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, you can meet Herman the Sturgeon, an 11 ft 500 lbs fish who, at 79 years old, is only middle-aged for a sturgeon but also represents, possibly, the closest living genetic relative to ancient dinosaurs.

Close up image of Herman the Sturgeon's face, in profile.
Herman the Sturgeon does a “swim-by” for visitors to the Sturgeon Viewing and Interprestive Center viewing pond, July 21, 2012.
Photo by Sheila Sund (used with permission via Creative Commons 2.0 general attribution license – CC BY 2.0. All other rights reserved).

Herman and some of his less-famous sturgeon buddies can be viewed, up close and personal, in a viewing pond at the Sturgeon Viewing and Interpretive Center, which includes a viewing window for looking beneath the surface of the two-acre pond that is home to Herman, a number of smaller sturgeon, and some trout.

Herman the Sturgeon, viewed through an underwater viewing window April 15, 2018. He's a bottom-dwelling fish.
Sturgeons are a family of prehistoric bottom-feeder cartilaginous fish dating back to the Mesozoic and known for their eggs, which are valued in many world cuisines as caviar. White Sturgeons are native to the Pacific Northwest of North America, with significant populations in the Columbia River, Lake Shasta, and in Montana. 
Photo by Wayne Hsieh (used with permission via Creative Commons 2.0 general attribution license – CC BY 2.0. All other rights reserved).

What other wild creatures inhabit Pacific Northwest forests?

If you’d like to visit and find out, follow our Forest Features every month, or visit a National Forest in Washington or Oregon.

Go. Play. It’s all yours!


Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, a family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like fact sheets, activities, or links to other educational resources about this topic – and for information about other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate environmental education and forest science in your Pacific Northwest classroom – email YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

National Public Lands Day – National Forests are fee-free Sept. 22!

kids walk through a meadow towards a treeline of Douglas Fir

National Public Lands Day is Sept. 22, and day use access to all National Forests in the Pacific Northwest and around the country will be fee-free that day to celebrate, and to help ensure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy America’s public lands.

Fees will be waived at day-use recreation sites this Saturday in Oregon and Washington. This fee waiver includes many picnic areas, boat launches, trailheads, and visitor centers. Concession operations will continue to charge fees unless the permit holder chooses to participate. Fees for camping, cabin rentals, heritage expeditions, or other permits still apply. To find a recreation site near you, visit our interactive recreation map.

This year is the 25th annual National Public Lands Day, and outdoor enthusiasts will be out in full force, giving back to the community by investing in their favorite outdoor places by giving their time and sharing the many recreation and stewardship opportunities on our public lands.

This year’s National Public Lands Day will focus on resilience and restoration.

Every day, natural disasters and extreme weather, human activities, and a host of other factors take their toll on our public lands, threatening the health and wellbeing of the people and wildlife who depend on them. Public land managers, volunteers, and others who steward these special places work tirelessly to restore these areas, make them more resilient to future threats, and ensure that people and wildlife continue to enjoy them for years to come.

Volunteer projects to commemorate the event have been organized on many Pacific Northwest national forests, including:

  • Wild & Scenic Rivers Act 50th Anniversary cleanup
    Klickitat Wild & Scenic River and Trail; Lyle, Wash.
    Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018
    In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Forest Service is hosting a community cleanup along the lower Klickitat River. Information booths will share will help inform the public about Wild and Scenic River designation. The cleanup will take place along the river banks, on the Klickitat Trail, and at river access sites. For more information, contact: Lisa Byers, at lisambyers@fs.fed.us or (541) 308-1729
  • “A Healthy Forest” kick-off event
    Cape Perpetua Scenic AreaYachats, Oregon 
    Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018
    In partnership with AmeriCorps, National Civilian Conservation Corps, and youth groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, the Forest Service will host the kick-off event for the Agents of Discovery Cape Perpetua Scenic Area “A Healthy Forest” Mission. Visitors and local families from Corvallis and Eugene are encouraged to participate. Spanish language assistance will be available. For more information, contact: Vicki Penwell, at vpenwell@fs.fed.us or (541) 707-0761

Many more National Public Lands Day volunteer projects are being held across Oregon and Washington. Projects include planting trees, building and repairing trails and bridges, removing trash and invasive plants, refurbishing historic structures, monitoring wildlife, and restoring natural habitats. To find a volunteer event near you, check with your local forest.

“We’re grateful to the many volunteers and partners who help us care for their public lands,” said Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester. “This Saturday, whether you’re volunteering in your local community or enjoying the great outdoors, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating all that our public lands offer.”

Celebrated annually in September, National Public Lands Day brings together volunteers, agencies, and partner organizations to connect people to public lands in their community, inspire environmental stewardship, and encourage use of public lands for education, recreation, and general health.

Last year, more than 200,000 National Public Lands Day participants volunteered at over 2,600 sites across the nation, contributing $18 million in public land improvements. To learn more about National Public Lands Day, visit www.neefusa.org/npld.

The Pacific Northwest Region consists of 16 National Forests, 59 District Offices, a National Scenic Area, and a National Grassland comprising 24.7 million acres in Oregon and Washington and employing approximately 3,550 people. To learn more about the U.S. Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest, please visit www.fs.usda.gov/r6.


Source information: USDA Forest Service and the National Environmental Education Foundation

Climbing inspectors offer unusual sight for Multnomah Falls crowd

A worker dangles from a harness below a concrete bridge.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Aug. 10, 2018 – Weekend visitors to Multnomah Falls took in an unexpected sight July 22nd; two USDA Forest Service engineering inspectors performing a climbing inspection of the Benson Bridge and the viewing platform at the top of the falls.

A worker takes notes while dangling from a harness below a concrete bridge.

David Strahl, a USDA Forest Service engineer, taking notes while inspecting the upstream side of 104-year-old Benson Bridge July 22, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Kathryn Van Hecke; USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region.

Mark Sodaro and Dave Strahl are licensed professional engineers and members of the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region’s Engineering Structures Group. Sodaro is also licensed as a structural engineer. But most unique among their qualifications is that both are Level 1 certified SPRAT (Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians) climbers.

“When I interviewed for my current position I was asked if I had a fear of heights, my response was that I had a healthy fear of heights and that I had recreationally rock-climbed several times before,” Strahl said. “I had no grasp of what I would experience over the next nine years.”

There are around 1,500 road bridges and 1,500 footbridges the Forest Service maintains or inspects in Oregon and Washington alone. Most are accessible by less dramatic means, such as a bucket truck; only the most technically complex inspections require climbing.

Sodaro said it’s “exhilarating” to take in some of the Pacific Northwest’s most scenic views during a technical inspection climb – but that it probably isn’t for everyone, or even most of his fellow engineers.

“It’s awesome. It’s just pretty cool. I do recreational climbing, too, so it’s fun for me,” he said. “I don’t think this is something you can ‘be volunteered for, you have to volunteer.”

A worker is dwarfed by a network of steel girders, located high above the forested walls of a deep canyon.

A USDA Forest Service engineer inspects the High Steel Bridge, which rises 420 feet above the Skokomish River Gorge on the Olympic National Forest in Washington, in an undated 2017 photo. Courtesy photo provided by David Strahl.

Twisting from a harness beneath the bridge below Gorge’s tallest waterfall isn’t even the most nerve-wracking inspection they’ve conducted, Strahl said.

That honor goes to the High Steel Bridge, perched 420 feet above the Skokomish River Gorge in the Olympic National Forest, which he and Sodaro inspected last year.

“That bridge is an order of magnitude more intense that the Benson Bridge,” Strahl said.

Strahl said he still gets a little nervous before a climb, but it fades as his focus shifts to the technical side of the bridge inspection and managing his ropes.

Any sense of relief he felt as he climbed out of his harness after the Benson Bridge inspection was related less to the height of the bridge, and more to the large crowd of visitors that had gathered to watch the inspectors work, he said.

Multnomah Falls is located along Interstate 84, less than 30 miles west of Portland, Ore., and summer weekends frequently draw a capacity crowd.

“Some of the public weren’t too happy to have access limited to the bridge,” Kathryn Van Hecke, the regional structures engineer, said. But, “they certainly enjoyed taking pictures of something they won’t see for at least another five years—climbers dangling from the bridge!”

The recent Benson Bridge inspection combined a regularly scheduled maintenance inspection and a review of repairs done in 2014 when a rock fall damaged the century-old bridge. The viewing platform was inspected to ensure it didn’t sustain damage in the 2017 Eagle Creek fire.

“For the most part the bridge is in good condition. I expect it to last another 100 years,” Strahl said.

A wide view of a bridge crossing a chasm between the upper and lower levels of a large waterfall. Workers are standing on the bridge, and another is hanging below the support truss.

A USDA Forest Service engineering team inspects the 104-year old Benson Bridge, located above the base of Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in Oregon July 22, 2018. Forest Service engineers David Strahl and Mark Sodaro, both Level 1-certified SPRAT climbers, conducted the inspection. A contractor, Extreme Access, provided Level 3 supervisory climbers to ensure the climbing was done safely. USDA Forest Service photo by Kathryn Van Hecke; regional structures engineer, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region.


Source information: Kathryn Van Hecke is the regional structures engineer for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region.

In the News: Eagle Creek fire, then & now

a batch of green is visible between two waterfalls in a valley below a burned forest ridgeline.

Some fires rekindling after dry winter, spring

A tree trunk filled with glowing embers is visible amidst a charred area of forest

PORTLAND, Ore.July 6, 2018 – Some of last summer’s fires in western Oregon have shown light smoke or small hots pots recently after a dry spring and low snow pack this winter.

Hot spots are not uncommon in heavy fuels like logs and organic duff that can hold heat over winter and flare back up after a period of warm, dry weather. Most of the isolated hot spots are well within the interior of the burned area and pose no threat of the fire escaping containment.

Last month, a small hot spot flared up near Herman Creek on the Eagle Creek Fire.  Hot spots are among the known post-fire hazards that have caused area and trail closures to remain in place. Other hazards include fire-weakened trees and loose boulders that can fall on trails at unpredictable times, as well as ongoing rock slides and landslides.

The seasonal outlook suggests a hot, dry summer with elevated fire danger in Oregon and Washington. People are reminded to be vigilant with campfires and observe any local prohibitions due to fire hazards. As a reminder, fireworks are always illegal on federal public lands. Always check that a campfire is stone-cold out before leaving: If it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.

Visitors are encouraged to contact local offices or recreation sites to “know before you go” if any fire restrictions or closures are in place.


USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region, Fire and Aviation Management

Benson Bridge Reopens at Multnomah Falls

Visitors stand on Benson Bridge, framed by a steep cliff face and Multnomah Falls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

HOOD RIVER, Ore. — June 28, 2018 — Historic Benson Bridge, located between upper and lower Multnomah Falls, reopened today for the first time since the Eagle Creek Fire.

“We’re excited to reconnect visitors with one of Oregon’s favorite selfie sites. Please stay on the trail and respect fences and closures for your safety and that of first responders,” said Lynn Burditt, area manager for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

The remainder of the Larch Mountain Trail, which continues up to the upper viewing platform, remains closed due to damaged sustained by last year’s 48,000-acre Eagle Creek Fire, which increased hazards of rockfall, falling trees, and landslides in areas where burned vegetation destabilized the Gorge’s naturally rocky slopes.

Oregon Dept. of Transportation (ODOT)’s Interstate 84 parking lot at Multnomah Falls fills quickly and closes frequently on busy days in the Gorge. Travelers should watch for congestion around exit 31, respect gate closures, and not wait in the I-84 eastbound fast lane for the gates to open.

Plan ahead, go early, go late, or take the Columbia Gorge Express, which runs daily through the summer from Portland’s Gateway center and Rooster Rock State Park with new stops in Cascade Locks and Hood River.

Many road and trail closures remain in effect in the vicinity of Multnomah Falls due to damage or ongoing hazards, including Angels Rest Trail, Shepperd’s Dell State Natural Area, George W. Joseph State Natural Area, most segments of the Gorge 400 and Historic Highway State Trails, and all Forest Service system trails south of I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area east of Angel’s Rest and west of Cascade Locks.

Larch Mountain Road remains closed at the snowgate, and Larch Mountain Day Use site and area trails remain closed. The Historic Columbia River Highway remains closed from Bridal Veil to Ainsworth, though Bridal Veil State Scenic Viewpoint and its short self-contained trails are open. Due to congestion, visitors are reminded not to attempt to park if lots are full, and instead visit other destinations in the communities of the Columbia River Gorge.

Please check for closures before heading out for a visit, by checking bit.ly/eaglecreekfireresponse or ReadySetGorge.com. Violators that enter closed areas are subject to citations and fines.

For the latest Columbia River Gorge NSA closure alerts and map, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/crgnsa/alerts-notices/?aid=41589

USDA Forest Service, Oregon Parks and Recreation, and Oregon Dept. of Transportation joint press release

A postcard from: Panther Creek Falls

a series of small waterfalls is formed by tiers of moss-covered boulders and large fallen logs along a forest stream

While more famous waterfalls like Multnomah Falls and Bridal Veil Falls draw thousands of visitors to the Columbia River Gorge, but the entire area offers plenty of extraordinary sights for waterfall-watchers; in fact, the region is home to the largest concentration of waterfalls in the U.S. One waterfall worth visiting is Panther Creek Falls, accessible via a short, half-mile hike from National Forest Service Rd. 65 (Panther Creek Rd.) on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Olivia Rivera, a research assistant who works in the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Regional Office, recently visited Panther Creek Falls. She sent us these photos and a few words about one of her favorite places in Your Northwest Forests:

“Panther Creek is easily my favorite sight yet,” she writes. “It’s a photographer’s dream. Easily one of the most unique spots in the Gorge area, this place really is gorgeous (no pun intended).

“There are dozens of smaller waterfalls and streams flowing down in all sorts of arrangements, creating an array of colors. A short quarter-mile path leads to a viewpoint above the falls, providing a great top-down view. You can also get a good look at the creek flowing into the falls from there.

“It is not possible to get to the base of the falls directly from the viewpoint… That said, the view of the falls is stunning from the base, where you can feel the water spraying all around and moss at your feet.”

Rivera said the short trek to the viewing platform is suitable for hikers of almost any age or ability level, but warns visitors to to steer clear of the treacherously slick rocks and cliff faces leading to the base of the falls.

For more information:
Panther Creek Falls (USDA Forest Service official site)
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/giffordpinchot/recarea/?recid=31868

a waterfall is viewed from the base as water streams down a series of tall, steep rock faces and moss from in a small gorge

Panther Creek Falls, April 1, 2018. Courtesy photo by Olivia Rivera, used by the USDA Forest Service with permission. All rights reserved. Photographer Instagram: @_0liveee.

Image gallery:

Olivia Rivera is a USDA Forest Service resource assistant. She works with collaborative groups on the Mt. Hood National Forest from the Pacific Northwest regional office in Portland, Ore. Olivia is a biologist and environmental scientist by training, and a nature and wildlife photographer at heart. You can find more of her photography on Instagram at @_0liveee.

FS awards citizen science funds to pika program

An American pika collects grass and flowers on a field of rocky talus

PORTLAND, Ore. — March 29, 2018 — Cascades Pika Watch is among the first programs awarded grants from the USDA Forest Service’s new CitSci Fund (Citizen Science Competitive Funding Program), the agency announced earlier this month.

The program is a partnership between Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area, Oregon Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and several researchers to study the population pressures on the Gorge’s pika population. The U.S. Geological Survey is also partner in the research effort.

An American pika sits on a talus slope

An American pika sits on a talus slope, Aug. 12, 2014. U.S. Geological Survey photo by Will Thompson.

The American pika, or Ochotona princeps, looks like a cross between a mouse and a rabbit. Pika live on talus, or loose piles of rocks that collect on steep slopes; the pika found in the gorge are of special interest to scientists because they live at much lower elevations than other pika in the U.S.

In four years, Cascades Pika Watch has trained more than 1,000 volunteers to conduct pika surveys throughout the Cascade range. Many volunteers return to study the same sites every year.

“In the wake of the Eagle Creek Fire, it’s especially important that we collect data on our unique pika population,” Dr. David Shepherdson, Oregon Zoo deputy conservation manager, said.

The 2017 fire burned through the pika study area; citizen scientists will work with the Forest Service to document any changes to the pika population, habitat, and identify factors that played a role in any changes observed.

Data gathered before and after the fire will be especially valuable in helping researchers understand how large disturbances impact the pika, and related species.

“This… grant provides a wonderful opportunity for the public to be involved… (and) hopefully instill a natural resource interest and ethic to other members of their family and friends,” Brett Carre, Wildlife and Fisheries biologist for Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, said.

An American pika peeks out from a rocky talus slope

An American pika peeks out from a rocky talus slope in the northern Cascades mountain range in an Aug. 8, 2017 photo. U.S. Geological Survey photo by Aaron Johnston.

Carre joins the Pika Watch project this year as the Forest Service lead for research funded by the grant.

He said citizen science projects, like the pika project, offer to get members of the public interested in, excited about, and more knowledgeable about how science guides forest planning and natural resources management decisions.

“It’s the best way for a conservation ethic to be perpetuated,” he said. “The way to get people to sustain and preserve natural resources is by getting them involved.”

The Forest Service’s CitSci Fund was established this year, under the provisions of the 2017 Citizen Science Act (Section 402 of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act).

“Citizen science” involves the public in scientific research, and offers unique opportunities to capitalize on the enthusiasm of volunteers, educate the public, and engage citizens in science conducted by federal agencies for the benefit of all Americans.

For example, NASA’s Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project recruits citizen scientists to help analyze images collected by a radio telescope in search of a hypothesized 9th planet orbiting beyond Neptune in our solar system. In it’s first year, participants did not find any new planets, but have found 17 previously undiscovered brown dwarf stars.

For this first year, the Forest Service’s CitSci Fund received 172 applications for funding from citizen science projects across the country.

Each project is co-led by a Forest Service employee and a partner organization staff member, and designed in a manner that requires volunteers provide meaningful contributions to the scientific process – such as project design, data collection, or conducting experiments.

The agency selected six projects to receive up to $25,000 each in CitSci funds.

In addition to the Cascade Pika Watch award, Rocky Mountain Wild and the Denver Zoo also received funds to study a population of American pika in their alpine ecosystem habitat on the White River National Forest in Colorado.

***

American pika:

Citizen Science:

USDA Forest Service — Pacific Northwest region staff report

An American pika collects grass and flowers on a field of rocky talus

An American pika collects grass and flowers to stockpile its winter food supplies in this Aug. 9, 2014 photo by Will Thompson, U.S. Geological Survey

Weekend Dog Mountain visits to require new permit

USDA Forest Service logo

STEVENSON, Wash. — March 26, 2018  To address safety concerns along Washington State Route 14 in the Columbia River Gorge, the U.S. Forest Service – with partners at Washington State Department of Transportation, Skamania County, and the Skamania County Chamber of Commerce. – is launching a new permit system at the Dog Mountain Trailhead for weekends during the peak use season, March 31- July 1.

As visitation at Dog Mountain has increased in the last decade, so have safety concerns. On weekends and holidays during the wildflower season, hikers often park and walk along SR 14, where high-speed traffic, narrow shoulders, and limited site distances create challenging situations for pedestrians and motorists alike.

“We’re trying this new approach to enable people to connect with this cherished trail while reducing safety challenges,” Lynn Burditt, area manager for Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, said. “We worked in partnership with local organizations to come up with this solution.”

Beginning this year, Skamania County offers a weekend shuttle service to reduce parking congestion at the summit. All visitors riding the shuttle on weekends from March 31 to July 1 will receive a Dog Mountain visitors permit when they ride. Seats are available on a first come, first served basis, at a cost of $1 per trip, or $2 roundtrip. Bus drivers will provide trail system permits to visitors upon arrival at Dog Mountain Trailhead. Each permit will be good for one individual on the day it is issued. More information about the shuttle schedule can be found at https://www.facebook.com/SkamaniaTransit/Shuttle.

For weekend visitors during the peak use season (March 31 to July 1) who do not use the shuttle, there will be 165 permits available per day through the national online reservation system at www.recreation.gov, costing a $1.50 non-refundable reservation fee per permit. Those parking in the lot at Dog Mountain Trailhead will also need to pay a per car recreation fee of $5 per day, or display a valid Northwest Forest Pass or Federal Interagency Pass, which is an existing requirement. Please note that parking is limited at the trailhead, and obtaining a permit does not ensure a parking spot.

“We’re hoping this new approach will offer a win-win by encouraging visitors to use the county shuttle service while also making SR 14 safer for visitors,” Skamania County Commissioner Chair Tom Lannen said, on behalf of the Skamania County Board of Commissioners.

Hikers should carry a printed permit or electronic copy of their permit, as Forest Service will check for permits at the trailhead.

Dog Mountain Trail System includes Dog Mountain Trail (#147 and #147C), Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail #147A, and the lower portion of Augspurger Trail #4407.

For more information, call 541-308-1700 or visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/crgnsa/hikedogmountain.

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area encompasses 292,500 acres of Washington and Oregon, where the Columbia River cuts a spectacular river canyon through the Cascade Mountains. The USDA Forest Service manages National Forest lands in the National Scenic Area and works with the Gorge Commission, states, counties, treaty tribes, and partners to protect and enhance scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Columbia River Gorge while encouraging local economic development consistent with that protection.

Learn more about Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area at www.fs.usda.gov/crgnsa or follow us on social media at facebook.com/crgnsa or www.twitter.com/crgnsa.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

New Permit System to Address Public Safety Concerns at Dog Mountain, Washington

Why is the U.S. Forest Service implementing a permit system at Dog Mountain?

The permit system is designed to protect public safety. On weekends during the wildflower season, the Dog Mountain Trailhead parking lot overflows and visitors park and walk along Washington State Route14 (SR-14) to access the trail system. With high-speed traffic, narrow shoulders, and limited site distances along SR-14, pedestrian traffic creates a serious public safety concern. Our partners at Washington Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol have asked the Forest Service to take action to address these safety concerns. The permit system will reduce overflow parking occurring along SR-14 in the vicinity of Dog Mountain Trailhead by encouraging use of shuttle services provided by Skamania County.

How can a trail permit system reduce safety concerns on a highway?

The permit system will encourage the use of Skamania County shuttle services while reducing the number of vehicles parking at Dog Mountain Trailhead and nearby areas along SR-14 on Saturdays and Sundays during the high use season. Only 165 visitors per day will be issued a permit to access the trail system via personal vehicle; the remaining visitors will be required to use the shuttle to obtain a permit.

When will permits be required for the Dog Mountain Trail System?

On Saturdays and Sundays from March 31, 2018 to July 1, 2018 each individual using the Dog Mountain Trail System will be required to obtain a permit. The system includes the Dog Mountain Trail #147 and #147C, the Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail #147A, and the southern portion of the Augspurger Trail #4407 between the Dog Mountain Trailhead (on State Route 14) and the intersection with the Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail #147A. Hikers on the system will be required to carry a hard copy permit or electronic proof of purchase.

How do I obtain a permit and what is the cost?

There are two options for obtaining a permit.

  • Option 1. Permits are available on a first come, first served basis for visitors who ride the Dog Mountain shuttle service operated by Skamania County. The shuttle costs $1.00 per person each way ($2 roundtrip per person), and it runs on weekends from March 31 to July 1. The shuttle schedule can be found at https://skamania.org/public-transportation/. Drivers will provide trail system permits to visitors upon arrival at Dog Mountain Trailhead. Each permit will be good for one individual and is only valid for the day it is issued.
  • Option 2. Another option is to reserve a permit through the national online reservation system at https://www.recreation.gov at the cost of $1.50 (non-refundable reservation fee) per permit. Visitors should print and carry their permit or carry electronic proof of purchase. There will be 165 permits available per day (for Saturdays and Sundays from March 31 to July 1).

Will there be permit-free or fee-free days?

No permits will be required on weekdays from March 31 to July 1 or for use outside of permit season. Recreation use fees apply every day of the year except fee free days. In 2018, the remaining fee free days include June 9 (National Get Outdoors Day), Sept. 22 (National Public Lands Day), and Nov. 10 – 11 (Veterans Day Weekend).

How will the reservation system be enforced?

Forest Service staff will check for proof of permits at the trailhead and along the trail. Visitors using the Dog Mountain Trail System without a permit may be issued a violation notice. Visitors who access the permit area via shuttle bus will be given a permit upon arrival at the trailhead. Visitors with online reservations are asked to print and carry a hard copy of their permit (or at a minimum, carry an electronic proof of purchase). Please remember that cell phone coverage and cell phone battery life may affect your ability to produce electronic proof of purchase.

Why is the Forest Service limiting use at Dog Mountain when so many trails in the Columbia River Gorge are closed because of the Eagle Creek Fire?

The Forest Service has been working with our partners at Washington Department of Transportation, Washington State Police, Skamania County Chamber of Commerce, and the Gorge Tourism Alliance to develop a permit system that allows for the continued public use and enjoyment of the Dog Mountain Trail System while also providing for visitor safety along State Route 14. Visitors who are unable to reserve a permit online, can access the Dog Mountain Trail System via shuttle from the Skamania County Fairgrounds.

Why is the Forest Service implementing a permit system to address safety concerns versus other, less restrictive approaches to site management?

The Forest Service and our partners have been working to address safety concerns related to congestion, parking, and traffic management along SR-14 for years. This season, safety concerns are further elevated as a result of Eagle Creek Fire and the associated closure area. The Forest Service and State Parks are already seeing an increase in use at trailheads on the Washington side of the Gorge as hikers looks for alternatives to popular trails within the fire closure area.

Past efforts have included the following:

  • Trailhead parking lot improvements to allow for safe passage of shuttle buses and emergency vehicles.
  • Partnering with Skamania County to provide and promote shuttle services.
  • Partnering with Friends of the Columbia Gorge to develop the Trailhead Ambassador program and expand education efforts at the Dog Mountain Trailhead.
  • Partnering with Washington Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol to manage parking and enforce existing regulations.
  • Partnering with Travel Oregon to develop and promote the Ready, Set, Gorge informational campaign in an effort to reduce congestion at popular areas and during peak times.

In addition to these ongoing efforts, the Forest Service is applying for grant funding through the Federal Lands Access Program to study the feasibility of relocating Dog Mountain Trailhead. Our partners are also applying for FLAP funding to initiate a congestion mitigation study for the SR-14 corridor and primary recreation areas.

The permit system is an additional tool that we feel is needed to address public safety concerns in the near future. There will be opportunities to monitor the permit system’s effectiveness and make adjustments as needed.

Do permit requirements apply to outfitters and guides?

No. Outfitters and guides are not authorized to use the Dog Mountain Trail System on weekends during the high use season. Permit holders can continue to access the site on weekdays when permits are not required.

Do I need a permit if I access the trail system from the northern trailhead (instead of the Dog Mountain Trailhead on SR-14)?

Yes. All visitors entering the permit area on weekends between March 31st and July 1st are required to carry a permit regardless of where they access the trail system.

Can I reserve a space on the Dog Mountain shuttle?

Shuttle services are only available on a first-come, first-served basis.

How often does the Dog Mountain shuttle run?

Skamania County provides shuttle service between Skamania County Fairgrounds and Dog Mountain Trailhead every half hour between the hours of 7:30 AM and 4:30 PM on weekends between March 31st and July 1st. On days when the shuttle buses are operating, the last departure from Skamania County Fairgrounds will be scheduled at 1:30 PM and the last pickup at Dog Mountain Trailhead will be at 4:30 PM. Visitors are encouraged to plan their trip accordingly. Approximate hiking time for the Dog Mountain Trail System is three to six hours.

Where can I catch the shuttle bus to Dog Mountain Trailhead?

The Dog Mountain shuttle will provide service from Skamania County Fairgrounds in Stevenson, WA at 710 SW Rock Creek Drive, Stevenson, WA 98648. More information can be found at https://skamania.org/publictransportation/.

Can I bring my dog on the shuttle with me?

Leashed dogs are allowed on the Dog Mountain shuttle buses. Owners must be in control of their pets at all times. Please consider leaving your dog at home if you have concerns about them being on a crowded shuttle bus with other pets and people.

Will there be security at the shuttle pick up/drop off lot?

There is limited security at the shuttle pick up/drop off lot. Visitors are discouraged from leaving valuables in their cars and/or in plain sight.

Can I reserve a permit online? How far in advance?

Permit reservations can be made online beginning March 14, 2018 at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. Permits will be issued as people apply for them (first come, first served). Demand for online permit reservations is expected to be high, so reserving a permit in advance is recommended.

How do I reserve a permit?

Similar to making a camping reservation, making an online permit reservation and payment is easy. The system will accommodate advance and day-of reservations (dependent on availability). Each individual is limited to purchasing four online permits per day per order.

How do I verify that I’ve reserved a permit online?

You will receive an email confirmation and are encouraged to print and carry the paper copy or carry an electronic copy. Forest Service employees will be monitoring compliance with permit requirements at the trailhead and along the trail.

If I reserve a trail system permit online, am I still required to purchase a recreation pass to park at Dog Mountain Trailhead?

Yes. Dog Mountain Trailhead is a recreation fee site. A daily, per-vehicle fee of $5.00 is charged for use of the Dog Mountain Trailhead facilities. Visitors can pay the daily fee on-site or online at https://yourpassnow.com/parkpass. Annual passes such as the Northwest Forest Pass and other interagency senior, military, and Every Kid in a Park passes are accepted as alternate forms of payment. Note that this fee is in addition to $1.50 administrative fee charged for ticket purchase.

If I show up at Dog Mountain Trailhead without a permit reservation, can I get one on the spot?

The Forest Service cannot issue permits “in the field” at Dog Mountain Trailhead. If space is available and you are able to get cell service and get online, you can reserve a permit from the trailhead and carry electronic proof of purchase while on the trail.

Will reservation and recreation use fees be used for maintenance of the Dog Mountain Trail System?

The $1.50 administrative fees are used for administration of the reservation system, which is contracted under Recreation.gov. Recreation use fees, however, are used for facility maintenance, visitor services, and trail maintenance at fee sites throughout the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

If I purchase my permit online, am I guaranteed parking at the trailhead?

Online permit reservations do not guarantee parking at the trailhead. The numbers of permits available online is based on parking lot capacity and average group size numbers for the Dog Mountain Trailhead, so the need for overflow parking should be minimized. The Forest Service will monitor conditions at the trailhead and adjust the number of online permits available if needed.

What should I do if I have a permit reserved and the trailhead parking lot is full when I arrive?

Visitors should park only in designated spaces and allow room for emergency vehicles and shuttle bus access. The Forest Service and our partners at the Friends of the Columbia Gorge will reserve some additional parking spaces each day and will make them available as needed to accommodate visitors who have reserved a permit online and arrive to find the parking lot full. For your safety, please remember that parking along Washington State Route 14 (SR-14) to access the Dog Mountain Trailhead is discouraged and visitors parking illegally may be fined and towed. Walking along the railroad tracks is both dangerous and illegal.

What if I need to cancel my reservation?

The online $1.50 reservation fee per permit is non-refundable. Reservations may be cancelled up to the day of the visit. Because there are a limited number of permits issued each day, you are encouraged to cancel your reservation if you cannot use it, so it is available for others.

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