Ongoing Response Work & How to Help

As the smoke cleared from Eagle Creek Fire, those who loved the Columbia River Gorge began the process of healing and discovery. Healing, as folks rolled up their sleeves, opened their wallets, or shopped local businesses to repair and rebuild the Gorge. Discovery, as school children documented the historic event in videos and hikers took to reopened trails to marvel at the brilliant new green re-emerging on once-blackened cliffs and rocks.

We have worked closely with agency and non-profit partners to address repair and recovery needs in our most heavily visited recreation sites. Together, we have accomplished an amazing pace of recovery since 2017. Our non-profit partner groups help match willing and trained volunteer crews with critical work needed to make a difference. If you want to help, contact our partners listed below directly to get started!

Hazard Mitigation

After any major wildfire, the landscape is transformed from the soil up to the tree canopy. To prevent further damage from hazards such as fire-weakened trees, rock fall, and landslides, we took the following steps after Eagle Creek Fire:

  • In the immediate aftermath of the fire, incident teams and USFS crews worked with Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to remove damaged “hazard” trees from areas where they were at risk of falling on or near I-84.
  • A damaged suspension bridge at Eagle Creek was removed in late 2017 to prevent possible collapse and further damage, in case of post-fire flash flooding or debris flows. Plans are to replace the bridge in the future.
  • USFS rebuilt a damaged rockfall catchment fence at Multnomah Falls Lodge, along with additional fences designed to protect the lodge itself from the increased rockfall occurring, due to the fire burning away the vegetation on the slopes. In March 2018, the lower viewing platform reopened.
  • USFS, ODOT, and OPRD coordinated trail and road work, continually cleared rock and debris from the historic highway. In April 2018 alone, more than 1,000 cubic yards of debris were cleared.
  • To protect visitors at Multnomah Falls, about 100 damaged “hazard” trees were removed in October 2018 from Larch Mountain Trail and slopes above the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge.
  • USFS, ODOT, and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) removed more than 9,000 hazard trees in danger of falling on the Historic Columbia River Highway, and the Historic Highway State Trail (bike/walk path) by November 2018.

Trail Repair & Restoration

Workers on Return Trail clearing rockfall.Working closely with partner groups to repair and reopen sites affected by Eagle Creek Fire, we have worked hard to reconnect our visitors to as many trails and sites in the burned area as possible:

  • The Historic Columbia River Highway and west Columbia Gorge trails such as Angels Rest, Wahkeena, and Larch Mountain reopened on Nov. 23, 2018. Nearly 2,500 volunteers put in about 25,000 hours of work to repair and rebuild trails.
  • In September 2018, we reopened the Eagle Creek Picnic Area when ODOT and OPRD reopened the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, a paved bike and walk path that runs between driveable sections of the Historic Highway. Please remember as you enjoy a picnic by the creek, trails near the Picnic Area remain closed with no estimate for the reopening date.
  • Three bridges were replaced in 2018 – Shady Creek, Multnomah Creek, and a bridge on Wahkeena Trail. Once Shady Creek Bridge was replaced in July 2018, the trail to Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls was able to reopen to visitors.
  • Throughout 2018, $12,000 was spent replacing burned signs, adding signs about hazards in open areas, and setting up new warning signs to mark closed areas. 
  • By June 2018, about 60 miles of National Forest System trails reopened east of Cascade Locks thanks in large part to our dedicated trail partners.
  • In May, our Wyeth and Eagle Creek Overlook Campgrounds reopened for the 2018 season. Reservations for these seasonal sites (typically May to September) must be made in advance on recreation.gov.

More bridge replacements are in the planning phase and we still have work to do to reopen many of the trails in the area between Cascade Locks and Multnomah Falls. Trail work will be limited throughout winter 2018 for safety reasons, but we are continuing to actively plan recovery efforts. Read more details about trail assessments & status. Contact our partners below if you want to help!

  • Pacific Crest Trail Association worked on 18 trails in the burn area in 2018, maintaining 52 miles, logging out 34 miles, and restoring 8 miles.
  • Trailkeepers of Oregon worked on 7 trails in the burned area, hired an intern to coordinate work outings, and hosted more than 80 work outings in 2018.
  • Washington Trails Association put in 1528 volunteer hours into the Scenic Area including trails that were more heavily impacted due to the Oregon closures post Eagle Creek Fire.

​Help with Forest Recovery

Most of the fire perimeter was located within the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness area. Forest Service policy is to allow reforestation to occur naturally, so we will not need help with widespread replanting of the burned area. One challenge, however, is to prevent areas that burned from being colonized by invasive plants rather than the native mix of species. Our partners have launched new programs for early detection and rapid response to help prevent invasive species from becoming established. Some planting of native species is also needed in some of our recreation sites with the highest numbers of visitors, where the risks of invasive species taking hold is highest.

  • Friends of the Columbia Gorge holds regular volunteer work parties to remove invasive species, and in some cases, plant native species. Contact them to learn more!

Visitor Information Support

With millions of visitors each year, there’s a constant need to share information with visitors about what’s open, how to leave no trace, and tips on how to avoid congestion and recreate with respect. Visitor information can enrich people's understanding of the Gorge's natural wonders, enhance visitor experiences, prevent Search and Rescues, and provide opportunities for visitors to support local communities. Contact our partners below help support visitor information efforts:

  • Friends of the Columbia Gorge runs a seasonal Trailhead Ambassador program, where volunteers help orient visitors at busy trailheads. 
  • Friends of Multnomah Falls is a dedicated group of volunteers who share the history, geology, and natural beauty of our most visited site, Multnomah Falls. 

Economic Recovery

The U.S. Forest Service was involved with the Governor’s Council on Economic Recovery to support local Gorge business which lost revenue during the fire. We also partnered with efforts such as the Show the Gorge Some Love campaign and Cascade Locks Strong to highlight ways to show support for local businesses. If you want to help, peruse our local shops or buy gift certificates for loved ones while in the Gorge! Your support for local business will help them recover from revenues lost during the fire and post-fire recovery period.

Financial Support

We want to thank the many generous folks who opened their hearts and wallets and donated to our partners. Our partners at the National Forest Foundation set up an Eagle Creek Fire Recovery Fund to help underwrite expenses and supplement federal funding for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. They received donations from 28 states, from individual donors, middle schools, and corporations. These funds were dispersed to projects on 60 miles of impacted trails, supporting costs of standing up volunteer programs. Oregon Kitchen Table also raised funds to support recovery, and additional visitors were provided by visitors to Multnomah Falls, who added a donation to their payment. Thanks again to everyone! If you are still interested in helping, the Eagle Creek Fire Recovery Fund is still accepting donations.

Eagle Creek Fire Update Newsletter

Throughout our 2018 field season, we published a newsletter with updates on the recovery process. Revisit the stories in the archives below. 

Return to the Eagle Creek Fire Response landing page.





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