Category Archives: Waterfalls

Postcard: Ramona Falls (no exaggeration required)

A hiker stands on the footbridge at the base of Ramona Falls, Mt. Hood National Forest, Ore. Courtesy photo by Catherine "Cat" Caruso.

Like many Pacific Northwest residents, I didn’t actually grow up here. I often call myself a “northeasterner by upbringing, northwesterner by choice.” While I know firsthand the way one’s hometown maintains a powerful hold on their heart, I also never tire of finding reasons to love my adopted home.

So, when one of my younger brothers came to visit this month, I steered him towards the travel and tourism kiosk located in the baggage claim area at Portland International Airport. As an anime fan, I thought he’d be especially delighted by Travel Oregon’s colorful “Oregon. Only slightly exaggerated” campaign… and he was! But even my heart skipped a beat when I recognized one of the locations in the brochure as Ramona Falls.

I’d hiked there just two weeks earlier.

An image from the “Oregon, Only slightly exaggerated,” ad campaign (Travel Oregon)

It’s as beautiful as what you see in this illustration.

The area around the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which includes the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Hood National Forest, is said to have the largest concentration of waterfalls in the United States.

Oregon’s most-famous waterfall is probably Multnomah Falls. My brother and I made a point to visit it during his trip; a spectacular sight, water plunging hundreds of feet to the pool below. It draws visitors from around the world, daily.

But to me, Ramona Falls is more beautiful.

The view looking up at the top of Ramona Falls. Courtesy photo by Catherine “Cat” Caruso.

Before I go any further, I want to share some words of warning: Ramona Falls is located in a wilderness area.

Never go into a wilderness without the ‘10 Outdoors Essentials!”

Outdoor Eseentials: Be prepared and carry these essential items any time you head out into the outdoors! 1. Appropriate footwear. 2. Printed map. 3. Extra water. 4. Extra food. 5. Extra clothes. 6. Emergency items. 7. First aid kit. 8. Knife or multi-purpose tool. 9. Backpack. 10. Sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.
Outdoor Eseentials: Be prepared and carry these essential items any time you head out into the outdoors! 1. Appropriate footwear. 2. Printed map. 3. Extra water. 4. Extra food. 5. Extra clothes. 6. Emergency items. 7. First aid kit. 8. Knife or multi-purpose tool. 9. Backpack. 10. Sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.

During my hike, I encountered many day hikers who seemed to take the lesson of 2017’s Eagle Creek fire, which occurred in the nearby Columbia River Gorge, to heart. During that fire, more than 100 day use visitors were stranded on the trail, and forced to undertake a long, difficult hike to safety.

But I also saw many people who not well-prepared, carrying only a bottle of water and whatever fit in their pockets.

As you approach the Sandy River, the trail is clearly marked with signs that warn about the dangers of crossing. Pay attention: If you can’t safely secure your child or pet to you and carry them across an improvised footbridge mad from a fallen tree or log without losing your balance, don’t try!

I’m sharing this from my own experience: Many people bring their dogs on this hike; I assumed I’d one of them, and it was a mistake. While I believed my young pup had done enough work on a balance beam to handle a log crossing, I failed to account for how much he likes to swim. While the current was safe – though, still quite strong – against the body of an adult human, it was much too deep and too swift for my Siberian Husky. Intellectually, I’d known the river can be dangerous, emotionally, it left me far more nervous for some of the small children I saw on this trail after I’d jumped into the current myself and fought to haul 65 pounds of wriggling, wet dog to the shore.

Shortly after this photo was taken, he jumped into the river for the second time. He’s cuter than he is bright. He’s also no longer invited on hikes with unimproved water crossings. Courtesy photo by Catherine “Cat” Caruso.

Signs that warn about the dangers of river crossings are posted alongside this trail for a reason: hikers have died here, after flash floods caused by heavy rainfall, in 2004 and 2014.

It’s easy be lulled into a false sense of security when you see others navigate a risky situation successfully; I know, I made the same mistake.

My advice is to read trip reports, check weather listings, and use more caution than you think you need to. Just because nothing seems to have gone wrong for many others, doesn’t mean it can’t.

Still: At the right time of year, when the river crossing is approached with appropriate caution and care, the Ramona Falls loop trail is a beautiful hike.

The 7-to-8 mile loop has a relatively gentle grade, with a cumulative 1000 feet of elevation gain.

The trail culminates with a spectacular view from the base of Ramona Falls, which really do look like something out of a fairy tale; truly, they need no exaggeration.

Children play at the base of the “real” Ramona Falls; Mt. Hood National Forest, Ore., which needs no exaggeration. Courtesy photo by Catherine “Cat” Caruso.

More information:

Ramona Falls trail # 797 – Mt. Hood National Forest:
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mthood/recarea/?recid=53460

The Enchanting Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge – Travel Oregon https://traveloregon.com/only-slightly-exaggerated/the-enchanting-mt-hood-and-columbia-river-gorge/


Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso works in the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region Office of Communications and Community Engagement. When she’s not editing the “Your Northwest Forests” blog, she’s usually shopping for fur-repellent office wear. She considers her outdoorsmanship skills to be “average,” which means there’s a 50 percent chance yours are better – but also, an equal chance that they’re worse.

Forest Service invites comment re: Wild & Scenic River proposals for Mt. Hood NF

A woman takes notes while standing along the shore below small waterfall along a tributary in the Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon. USDA Forest Service photo.

The Mt. Hood National Forest and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Northwest Oregon District invite the public to comment on a proposal to adopt a comprehensive river management plan for nine rivers as part of a Wild and Scenic River planning project.

Nine rivers were designated as additions to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in the 2009 Omnibus Public Land Management Act for a total of 81 miles of additional wild and scenic river.

The designated rivers are: Collawash River, Eagle Creek, East Fork Hood River, Fifteenmile Creek, Fish Creek, Middle Fork Hood River, South Fork Clackamas River, South Fork Roaring River, and Zigzag River.

The South Fork Clackamas River includes both Forest Service and BLM-administered lands.

The Forest and BLM began the planning process for these rivers in June 2017.

The scoping packet is available for review on the project website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=54674. Information can also be found on the Wild and Scenic Rivers Comprehensive River Management Plan website and BLM project website.

The purpose of this outreach effort is to invite public involvement process at an early stage of proposal development. Any comments at this stage of project development are welcome. In particular, members of the public who believe they have information the agencies may not be aware of or who have concerns regarding this proposed action are encouraged to send that information in writing to the address provided below.

The agencies anticipate that the level of review necessary for this proposal will be covered through an Environmental Assessment (EA).

Public involvement is a key element of the land management planning process. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act provides the framework for public participation in the federal decision making process. Public input at this point in the process will help identify issues associated with this planning process and guide development of possible alternatives to the proposed action. Comments will again be solicited from the public and other federal, state and local agencies when a preliminary assessment and draft comprehensive river management plan are available.

The deadline to submit comments is August 26, 2019.

Electronic comments including attachments may be submitted electronically via the website link below. Specific written comments may also be submitted via mail or hand delivered to the Zigzag Ranger Station between the hours of 7:45 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays.

Comments must have an identifiable name attached, or verification of identity will be required. A scanned signature may serve as verification on electronic comments.

To submit comments electronically, visit: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=54674. The link is located on the left side of the project website.

To submit via mail or hand delivery, send to: Wild and Scenic River Planning Comments; 70220 E. Highway 26; Zigzag, OR 97049 or BLM Northwest Oregon District, Wild and Scenic River Planning Comments (Attn: Whitney Wirthlin); 1717 Fabry Road SE; Salem, OR 97306.

For more information, contact Jennie O’Connor Card, team leader, at (406) 522-2537 or jennie.oconnorcard@usda.gov.


Source information: Mt. Hood National Forest (press release).

Wild & Scenic Rivers Act 50th Anniversary: Rafting rapids and tying flies on the North Umpqua River

Fly fishermen practice with a guide on the North Umpqua River

People seem to agree there is something special about the North Umpqua River.

The water is sometimes blue and sometimes green, and so clear you can see through to the smooth stones of the riverbed, below. The current, alternately placid and rapids, tumbles under bridges and over boulders as it winds through a modest canyon and across portions of the Umpqua National Forest.

Why it’s special it’s harder to pin down; or rather, the reasons are as varied as those who are drawn to its sun-dappled, tree-lined banks.

two kayakers paddle downriver

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. 

For fishing guide Dillon Renton, the special nature of the North Umpqua River is deeply rooted in the river’s century-old ties to fly-fishing.

A 33-mile stretch of the river was federally designated as a Wild and Scenic River in 1988. The act, which passes the half-century mark later this year, identifies rivers to be managed and protected to preserve outstanding wild, scenic, or recreational values.

For the North Umpqua River, the list includes water quality, fisheries, recreational opportunities, cultural significance, and overall scenic value.

“It’s quite different from other rivers, in terms of ease of access. You can pull right off the highway and start fishing, in some places,” Janie Pardo, a Forest Service realty specialist on the North Umpqua Ranger District and manager of the river’s outfitter-guide program, said.

A fishing guide helps a woman practice casting from a sandbar along the North Umpqua River

Fishing guide Dillon Renton helps visitors Rob Lynn and Shelley Phillips practice their cast at a Bureau of Land Management day use area on the banks of the north Umpqua River July 19, 2018.

Fly fishing is what the north Umpqua is most famous for – specifically, the wild Columbian steelhead.

The river attracted fly-fishing sportsmen beginning in the 1920s. Anglers pursued wild Columbian steelhead from its banks; including some famous names like Zane Gray and Jack Hemingway.

Catching the fish is notoriously difficult. Some anglers even call it “the graduate school of fly-fishing,” Jim Woodward, who co-owns the Steamboat Inn with wife Melinda, said.

Fishing is what drew the Woodwards to invest in the half-century old fishing lodge on the banks of the river, about two years ago. The couple met while working together at another resort, but dreamed of running a lodge of their own.

The owner of Steamboat Inn discusses fishing flies

Jim Woodward, owner of Steamboat Inn, discusses the history of fly fishing for wild steelhead on the North Umpqua River July 20, 2018. The inn, built in 1957 has operated on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) for more than 60 years, and is the successor to the North Umpqua Lodge, which operated from 1934-1952. Prior to that, the site was home to a fishing camp established by Maj. Jordan Mott in 1929, and also used by angler Zeke Allen.

“We walked in, and we were like, ‘this is it,’” Melinda Woodward said.

But like the fish that ply its waters, the river valley’s weather can also be fickle. Just months into the Woodward’s first season, a lightning storm set wildfires across surrounding portions of the north Umpqua National Forest.

a fishing fly with black and white skunk fur

A Green Butt Skunk fly lies on a table at the Steamboat Inn July 20, 2018. The fly pattern was specifically created for fishing wild steelhead on the North Umpqua River by Dan Callahan, a founder of the Steamboaters – a private flyfishing and conservation organization founded for the protection of the river and its fishing heritage.

Some fires burned right up to the river’s banks. Officials closed the highway, then the river, north of the lodge. And what visitors the lack of traffic and river didn’t kill, the smoke drove away.

“We called it our ‘trial by fire,’” Melinda Woodward said. “If we could get through that, we can make it through anything.”

A chef plates entres while a member of the waistaff assists in the kitchen

Justin Smith plates entrees in the kitchen at the Steamboat Inn July 20, 2018.

Justin Smith grew up in Glide, Ore. and is the first in four generations of his family not to work in logging.

In the 1980s, before the Endangered Species Act was passed, fishing was how his family filled their freezer during lumber mill strikes.

His first job was working in the kitchen of the Steamboat Inn, and cooking became his career. For several years, he worked Portland, specializing in farm-to-table cooking, before returning to the inn last year as its chef.

In late July, summer squashes and wild morels were featured alongside cocktails and desserts that were made with local berries.

The fishing library at Steamboat Inn

The fishing library at Steamboat Inn, pictured here on July 20, 2018. The inn’s ties to a century of fly fishing and wild steelhead runs on the North Umpqua river are apparent in the historical photos and fishing equipment on display, the decor, and the inn’s extensive library of books on fly fishing, many by authors known to have fished on the river.

Smith was mid-transition, from the last of the winter vegetables to summer fare – a phone call from one of his farmers to let him know she had fresh tomatoes and peaches meant he’d be pivoting to new menu items as soon as his order arrives.

“I’m going to have a ton of beets left over, but that’s OK,” he said. “I’ll pickle them, and then we can serve them this winter.”

Smith spoke of “his vendors” much the same way Renton spoke of favorite fishing holes – with a note of local pride, tempered with the slightly guarded tone of a secret not readily shared.

“I want the flavors to remind people of where we are, and what this place is,” he said. “That’s where the morels come from, the berries. As much as we can, it’s all local.”

A fly fisherman on the banks of the river

Rob Lynn practices his cast at a Bureau of Land Management day use area on the banks of the north Umpqua River July 19, 2018. Attempting to catch steelhead on the North Umpqua River is sometimes referred to as the “graduate school of fly fishing.”

One thing that isn’t on the menu is wild steelhead from the North Umpqua River. The fish is protected, and today all fishing for it is catch-and-release.

That doesn’t stop fly fishermen from coming from all over to test their skills against the famous fish. They don’t have the river to themselves, though. The anglers share the river with a growing community of boaters, primarily drawn to opportunities for whitewater rafting and kayaking.

The fishing guides, suited in waders and wielding flies and rods, are out from sunup to around 10 a.m., when the rafting parties begin to gather at places like the Boulder Flat boat launch. Many anglers return in late afternoon, and continue to fish until dusk.

rafters paddle downriver through rapids

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018.

But in the middle of the day, it’s boaters who rule the river, paddling kayaks or swooping over rapids in rafts along much of the Wild and Scenic recreation corridor.

Portions of the river are managed by the Forest Service, and others by the Bureau of Land Management.

rafters listen to safety instructions

A group of rafters listen to a Sun River Tours outfitter-guide give safety instructions at the Boulder Flat boat launch on the North Umpqua River, Umpqua National Forest in Oregon July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. USDA Forest Service photo by Catherine Caruso (Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement staff)

Land managers describe the river corridor by dividing it in five sections, each roughly five or six miles in length.

Each segment is dominated by unique scenery, from basalt columns in the first segment, Boulder Flat to Horseshoe Bend), to old growth forest and water falls on the fourth, Boulder Creek to Susan Creek, and smooth running river interspersed with rapids that ranging from a relatively gentler Class IIs and IIIs to challenging Class IVs and Vs.

From overhead, rafters paddle downriver

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. 

Visitors can raft or kayak on the river without a permit, or access the river through one of several companies with outfitter-guide permits (check out the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s new outfitter-guide finder).

“As outfitter-guides, we’re really ambassadors for the river,” Erik Weiseth, owner of Orange Torpedo Trips, said.

A kayaker paddles through rapids

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. USDA Forest Service photo by Catherine Caruso (Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement staff)

Not everyone has the confidence or tools to take up a new outdoors activity on their own. Outfitter-guides provide the gear, and the expertise, to try something new — and do it safely, he said.

The company also operates tours on the Rogue River, one of eight rivers designated 50 years ago, when the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act first passed.

A wildflower

A wildflower grows on the banks of the north Umpqua River, through the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) at Horshoe Bend campground July 20, 2018.

The inherent tension between maintaining the natural wonder visitors value when visiting outdoor spaces, while introducing more people to those special places, is one that he, like others who work along the river, is sensitive to.

“But these places won’t survive, if people don’t know them and appreciate them,” Weiseth said. “As outfitters and guides, we provide an accessible way for people to do that.”

Recreation on the

From left, April Clayes, her son Gil Sidro, and sister Sierra Vandonk enjoy lunch at the Falls Creek Falls trailhead on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. 

At the Falls Creek Falls trailhead, April Clayes, her son Gil Sidro, and sister Sierra Vandonk enjoyed a family picnic after a short hike to the falls.

“(Gil) first came here when he was a baby, and we come back every so often,” Clayes said. “It’s a nice hike, not too steep… it’s special to us. He has memories of his grandpa on this trail, with him.”

A mossy tree

Moss drapes from a tree on a river bank behind Steamboat Inn along the North Umpqua River on the Umpqua National Forest July 20, 2018.

Behind the Steamboat Inn, guests took in the sights and sounds of the river while dining on the restaurant’s patio as Melinda Woodward reflected on what drew her, and her husband, to the North Umpqua River.

What makes the river unique might not be something that can be shared, only experienced, Woodward said.

“There is something special about this river. I don’t know how to put it into words. One guest said ‘if there’s any magic left, it’s here,'” she said.

More information:

A river cuts through a steep canyon

The North Umpqua River’s rapids drop to class II as the river approaches Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018.


Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso is the strategic communication lead for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, and edits the “Your Northwest Forests” blog. You can reach her at ccaruso@fs.fed.us.

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.

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.

Multnomah Falls lower viewing platform reopens March 19

visitors observe a waterfall from a viewing area below the falls

MULTNOMAH FALLS, Ore. – March 19, 2018 – Visitors can once again view Multnomah Falls with no fence in the foreground, as the lower viewing platform re-opened today. The lower viewing platform, located at the base of the falls, has been closed to the public since Sept. 4, 2017, two days after the start of the Eagle Creek Fire.

The lodge, restaurant, gift shop, and snack bar reopened Nov. 29, 2017, but the platform remained closed due to the need to rebuild a rock catchment fence which was damaged during the fire by falling debris and trees.

The reconstruction of the fence was completed late last week, and the new fence will protect visitors on the platform from trees or rocks that may fall from the hillside.

The USDA Forest Service also hired contractors to fell hazard trees and conduct rock scaling, measures which will limit the amount of dangerous debris that can fall unexpectedly.

The trail to Benson Bridge, which spans the upper and lower falls, will remain closed until the next round of repairs is completed.

Work will include the replacement of Shady Creek Bridge, a wooden footbridge that burned during Eagle Creek Fire, and clearing and repair work on the lower portion of Larch Mountain Trail. An initial trail assessment found up to 90 percent of the trail covered by rocks. Crews have begun work to clear, repair, and stabilize the trail.

The projected timeline for reopening the trail up to Benson Bridge is summer, 2018. A timeline for the trail to the upper viewing platform remains undetermined.

The recreation site, managed by the Forest Service, is one of the most popular natural attractions in Oregon, receiving millions of visitors each year. Visitors still need to access the lodge through the Interstate 84 parking lot, operated by Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). When parking is full, the gate to the I-84 parking lot will close. Travelers are asked to respect gate closures and use caution on the interstate.

A six-mile section of the Historic Columbia River Highway from Bridal Veil to Ainsworth State Park remains closed with no timeline for re-opening. Rocks and trees continue to fall on the road and ODOT will keep the road closed until it can safely re-open. Nearby Benson State Recreation Area will also remain closed to protect public safety.

The Forest Service continues to work in close collaboration with ODOT and Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation to mitigate hazards in the vicinity of the Eagle Creek Fire burned area in order to reopen roadways and recreation sites affected by the Eagle Creek Fire as soon as it is safe to do so.

Staff report, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

[VIDEO] Ryan Cole, an engineering geologist based at Mount Hood National Forest, discusses post-fire work at Multnomah Falls Lodge in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, to make it safe for visitors following rockfalls and other hazards created during the 2017 Eagle Creek fire.