Category Archives: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Forest Service partners to extend outreach in Slavic community

USDA Forest Service staff, Slavic Family Media employees, and their families gather for a group photo following the signing of a partnership agreement July 17, 2019. The media company manages a number of Russian-language news and information platforms serving the Slavic community in and around Portland, Ore. and across the Pacific Northwest. Under the agreement, the group will assist the agency in translating and sharing Forest Service information about conservation, permits, fire prevention, recreation. volunteerism, and other public lands news and information for the Slavic community through spring, 2020. USDA Forest Service photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. (Aug 20, 2019) — The USDA Forest Service has signed an agreement with Slavic Family Media to expand the agency’s outreach to the Russian -speaking immigrant and refugee community in and around the Portland metro, which includes Multnomah County, Ore. and Clark County, Wash.

“Our community loves recreating, and they love to hike, camp, and enjoy day trips to harvest mushrooms and berries. Our goal as a community organization is to ensure make sure that our people our members have the proper information and resources to do so safely and legally,” Timur Holove, the media organization’s creative director, said. “We want to give our audience this valuable information in their native language so they can understand and take advantage of all the programs offered by the U.S. Forest Service,” some of which they may not have even known existed, he said.

To underscore the importance of this outreach effort to the agency, the agreement was signed live, on-air, by Nick Pechneyuk, Slavic Family Media chief executive officer, and Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest regional forester, at the Slavic Family Media radio and television studios in Portland, Ore.

From left: Timur Holove, creative director for Slavic Family Media, Nick Pechneyuk, chief executive officer, and Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest regional forester, on the set at Slavic Family Media radio and television studios in Portland, Ore. July 17, 2019. USDA Forest Service photo.

“This agreement … is really another step forward in our commitment to shared stewardship, and expanding our engagement to broader audiences, like the Slavic family,” Casamassa said during the July 17 signing. “This is a great opportunity, for us, noth only for this generation, but for future generations as well, to be able to work together.”

The agreement that outlines how the two organizations will work together to bring information about the national forest system to the Russian-language speaking population in and around Portland, Ore.

“We’re providing information that we need disseminated to the Slavic population,” Shandra Terry, Forest Service regional program coordinator for community engagement and inclusion, said. “And what we are providing is information that they can use – about recreation, and special use permits for special forest products, such as mushrooms, huckleberries, Christmas trees – things that are special to this community. These are opportunities that public lands offer, and this demographic will now have better opportunities to access these public lands and services.”

Under the agreement, Slavic Family Media will translate information provided by the Forest Service into Russian, then communicate it via the company’s various Russian-language media platforms. These include television, radio, a website, social media, and print publications – including a newspaper, business journal, and a magazine that, combined, potentially reach more than 150,000 Russian -speakers across the Pacific Northwest.

Information will include conservation education, recreation, and land stewardship topics, wildland fire prevention and preparedness information, and information about special places on nearby National Forest lands, such as the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mt. Hood National Forest, and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Terry said.

From left: Shandra Terry, Forest Service regional program coordinator for community engagement and inclusion, and Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest regional forester, pose with an example of a wildland fire prevention product that was translated into Russian while at the Slavic Family Media radio and television studios in Portland, Ore. for the July 17, 2019 partnership signing ceremony. USDA Forest Service photo.

The Slavic language family is diverse, consisting of languages that include Russian, Ukrainian, and Moldova. But many immigrants from former Soviet countries learned to speak, read, and write in Russian in school, or from family members who were taught in Russian and otherwise discouraged by that government from using their native language in public life, prior to the dissolution of the U.S.S.R.

After English and Spanish, Russian and Ukrainian are the 3rd largest language-group spoken in Oregon. Large Slavic communities are also present in Washington State, in the Seattle-Tacoma metro, and smaller populations of Russian-language speakers are found in several areas of rural Washington and Oregon.

In the U.S., English, is the language most often used for communicating government information, placing non-fluent speakers at a disadvantage when it comes to receiving information or from benefiting fully from public services – including public lands, and specifically opportunities available on National Forests and Grasslands.

Terry said that while working on this partnership and related Slavic outreach efforts, she’s learned many in the community deeply value opportunities to spend time in the outdoors, and are very interested in information that will expand their opportunities to access public lands.

“Fishing is a huge area of interest. So is finding places the family can gather, and make memories,” she said, noting that Christmas tree -cutting permits and the Every Kid Outdoors (formerly, Every Kid in a Park) program for fourth-graders have been a particularly strong draw in previous Forest Service engagements with Portland’s Slavic community. “They’re wanting to know more about what the regulations are, so they can access those places. We’ll be sharing a lot of information, about our special places and how to access them, so they can do that.”

Terry said she hopes the Forest Service’s partnership with Slavic Family Media will help more members of this community find connect with public lands stewardship and volunteer opportunities, as well.

“These are public lands. They are for everyone, and we are all responsible for them,” she said.

Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa will also deliver remarks to the Slavic community Sept. 1, 2019 at the Slavic Family Festival 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Gateway Discovery Park (10520 NE Halsey St.; Portland, Ore.). Casamassa will deliver his remarks at approx. 11 a.m. The agency will have employees present to provide forest user information throughout the day, and Smokey Bear is scheduled to make an appearance at the event.

From the Memorandum of Agreement (signed July 19):

  • National Forest System lands are open and welcoming to everyone.  Slavic Family Media and USDA Forest Service value the opportunity to communicate and highlight National Forest recreation opportunities, forest products, eco therapy, forest safety, smoke health, fire recovery information, conservation education, volunteer and employment opportunities and National Forest System events to audiences primarily in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area through multimedia opportunities. 
  • The partnership between Slavic Family Media and the USDA Forest Service signifies our partnership and commitment to connecting Russian-speaking communities to national forest lands and Forest Service engagement opportunities. 
  • The USDA Forest Service is committed to shared stewardship to protect public lands and deliver benefits to the people and communities we serve in Oregon and Washington. 
  • Through Slavic Family Media, the USDA Forest Service aims to leverage its communications and reach the Slavic community through bilingual (Russian and English) print, radio, and social media platforms.  This partnership initially became effective in March 2019.

Watch the signing ceremony, here:

USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region and Slavic Family Media partnership signing; July 17, 2019.

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement (staff report)

Junior wildland firefighter camp for girls June 8

Girls joined Wild Skills, SheJumps and USDA Forest Service firefighters for a day of outdoors skills-building, conservation education, and exposure to possible careers in science and natural resources, emergency management, and wildland firefighting during the 2018 Wild Skills Junior Wildland Firefighter day camp. Girls worked with female USDA Forest Service firefighters from Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to run hoses, carry packs, and learn about fire behavior, fire safety, land navigation, emergency response work, and team building. Courtesy photo provided by Christy Pelland (SheJumps)

Girls ages 6-15 are invited to join Wild Skills, SheJumps and USDA Forest Service firefighters at Wyeth Campground in Cascade Locks, Ore. for a day of outdoors skills-building, conservation education, and exposure to possible careers in science and natural resources, emergency management, and wildland firefighting!

Participants will work with female firefighters to run hoses, carry packs, and learn about fire behavior, fire safety, land navigation, emergency response work, and team building while enjoying a day in the outdoors on the scenic Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

The event is open to all girls ages 6-15 (transgender and cisgender), and members of the non-binary community who identify with the women’s community. Cost is $35 (scholarships are also available).

For more information or to sign up, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wild-skills-junior-wildland-firefighter-hood-river-tickets-60533122198.

Story and photos from the 2018 Wild Skills junior firefighter experience: http://www.shejumps.org/wild-skills-junior-wildland-firefighter-hood-river-recap/


Source information: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (staff report)

Updated: National Get Outdoors Day in Vancouver, WA June 8

Smokey Bear greets attendees during the National Get Outdoors Day event at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in a June 10, 2017 file photo. USDA Forest Service photo.

VANCOUVER, Wash. (May 29, 2019) –  Experience free outdoor activities and family fun at the annual National Get Outdoors Day event Sat. June 8, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Climb a rock wall, learn to shoot a bow and arrow, catch a fish, play soccer, experience disc golf, listen to live music, and more with activities suitable for children and families!

Learn more about how Pacific Northwest residents experienced the outdoors 180 years ago through a living history exhibit of a Hudson Bay Company fur trader encampment at Fort Vancouver. Costumed re-enactors will demonstrate cooking, crafts, games, dances, music, and weaponry from the 1840s, and host activities for participants to experience elements of that era first-hand.

Get Outdoors Day at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site brings more than 35 land management agencies, non-profits, and outdoor-based businesses to introduce the public to fun outdoor activities.

Booths and food vendors will be lined along East 5th St., to the west of Pearson Air Museum.

“We love working with all of these partners at Get Outdoors Day to help encourage kids and families to experience their public lands,” Gifford Pinchot National Forest Acting Supervisor Angie Elam said.

“Get Outdoors Day brings together multiple agencies and organizations to provide a lively event full of activities and opportunities that embrace the health benefits that outdoor recreation provides,” Fort Vancouver Superintendent Tracy Fortmann said. “As an urban national park, Fort Vancouver NHS serves as an ideal gateway to national parks, forests, trails, and other public lands.”

During the event, the Friends of Fort Vancouver will host two lectures at the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center (1501 E Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, WA).

  • From 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Native American artist Lillian Pitt shares stories of the Columbia River People with children from “Salmon and Coyote Tell my Family Stories.”
  • From 2-3 p.m., Volcanologist and author Dr. Kevin Scott presents “The Voice of This Stone: Learning from Volcanic Disasters Around the World.” For more information visit: https://tinyurl.com/getoutdoorsvancouver.

New this year: From noon-2 p.m.Repair Clark County will be at Pearson Field Education Center, located next door to the activities at Fort Vancouver, will promote conservation by helping local residents repair damaged items, including outdoors gear and accessories. Skilled volunteers will donate their expertise and labor to help repair participant’s broken or damaged goods. For more info, visit: www.RepairClarkCounty.org.

National Get Outdoors Day is a national free event that encourages everyone, especially youth, to pursue healthy, active outdoor lifestyles – including experiences in our parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands and waters.

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mt. Hood National Forests, Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, City of Vancouver, Parks Foundation of Clark County and other public, private, and non-profit groups partner together to present the annual event for residents of the greater Portland, Ore. and southwestern Washington metropolitan areas. 

Participating groups and activities include:

Bluegrass jam
Audubon Society
Bonneville Lock & Dam
City of Vancouver
Vancouver Parks & Recreation
Vancouver Urban Forestry
Water Resource Education Center
Vive Northwest
C-Tran
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Friends of Trees
Hike it Baby
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Master Gardeners
Friends of Fort Vancouver
Girl Scouts of OR & SW WA
National Wildlife Federation
Mount St. Helens Institute
Mt. Hood National Forest
Pacific Crest Trail Association
Quick Start Sports
Cascade Forest Conservancy
Silver Star Search & Rescue
Timber Lake Jobs Corps
SW WA Anglers
Kids Hiking
WA Trails Association
US Fish & Wildlife Service – National Wildlife Refuges
USDA Forest Service – Fire & Aviation
WA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife
Columbia River Gorge Nat’l Scenic Area
Glen’s Hands-On Gizmos
WA Timbers Football Club
Oregon Caves National Monument
OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science & Industry)
Ultimate Hunt
Backcountry Horsemen
Fishing
Pokemon Go
Urban Abundance
Waste Connections
Confluence Project

Visitors stroll exhibitor booths at the 2016 Get Outdoors Day event at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site June 11, 2016. USDA Forest Service file photo.
Visitors stroll exhibitor booths at the 2016 Get Outdoors Day event at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site June 11, 2016. USDA Forest Service file photo.

Source information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest (press release)

Dog Mountain weekend hiker permits return to CRGNSA for peak season

The view facing west over the Columbia River from Dog Mountain Trail (Forest Service trail #147) in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area May 19, 2017. USDA Forest Service photo.

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

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