Multnomah Falls Lodge Re-opening post Eagle Creek Fire

Eagle Creek Fire Response - Facts about Multnomah Falls Lodge re-opening November 29, 2017:

What facilities will open at Multnomah Falls?

Multnomah Falls Lodge, including the restaurant, gift shop, restrooms, and U.S. Forest Service information center will be open. The front plaza by the Lodge, and the I-84 parking lot will also be open.

Will I be able to see Multnomah Falls?

Yes, but visitors will have to enjoy views of the falls from the front and side plaza area near the lodge. From this area, the view is somewhat obscured by vegetation. The lower viewing platform will remain closed until the next round of repairs is completed. The trails will remain closed until Shady Creek Bridge can be replaced and a complete trail condition assessment can inform repair needs.

What days and times will the lodge be open?

During the winter season, the lodge will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., seven days a week, except in cases of inclement weather.

How will I know if the lodge is closed due to inclement weather?

Please check the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area website at www.fs.usda.gov/crgnsa  for alerts or call the Multnomah Falls Lodge Information Center at (503) 695-2372.

Is the lodge safe?

Multnomah Falls Basin is a natural area, where geologic hazards such as rockfall and landslides always exist and there is always a risk of natural hazards in the vicinity. By burning through the soil in the surrounding cliffs, Eagle Creek Fire raised the likelihood of extreme events, which is why the site was closed until measures such as hazard tree removal, rock scaling, and a temporary fence were put in place to reduce potential risks to the Historic structure and to visitors.

The current mitigations make the lodge and front plaza sufficiently safe for members of the public to access, however visitors should determine their own comfort levels. Those concerned about these risks may want to avoid visiting the area during heavy rain and snowfall events, as these can be known triggers for flash floods, landslides and rockslides. Visit the Portland National Weather Service office’s website at forecasts and alerts http://www.weather.gov/pqr/.

What measures were taken to decrease the risks of tree fall, rock slides, and other hazards?

  • A temporary fence was constructed behind the lodge to protect it from falling material (trees, rocks, or landslides) coming down from the nearby cliff and slopes. Steps are underway to construct a more permanent rockfall fence.
  • Rock scaling and hazard tree falling were conducted to lower the risks of falling material creating further damage or injury to visitors. This work will be ongoing in other areas of Multnomah Basin.
  • The existing rockfall catchment fence (along the trail between Shady Creek Bridge and Benson Bridge) was damaged during the fire.  It will be cleared out and rebuilt.

Is the Historic Columbia River Highway open?

Not in the vicinity of Multnomah Falls Lodge. Work to mitigate hazards and prepare the section from Bridal Veil to Ainsworth is underway however the road is not ready to reopen and there is no current timeline for reopening this section. Visitors can access the lodge from the I-84 parking lot.

Why is there so much fencing in the area?

The Historic Columbia River Highway in this area remains closed and there continues to be a Forest Service closure order for much of the fire area.  For a variety of reasons – curiosity, connecting with the land, feeling like they can take care of themselves -- we have experienced more than 6000 people attempting to enter the closed area and/or contacting security.  Citations are being issued.

Rockfall, debris slides, burned trees exist throughout much of the fire impacted area. Winter conditions enhance the likelihood of continued movement.

While we would hope that signing would be adequate for people to honor these closures, fencing is necessary to mitigate the likelihood of entry in closed areas.  Conditions for search and rescue crews are substantially changed and it is critical to mitigate their risk exposure.

Can I hike at Multnomah Falls?

The trail to the upper falls and other adjacent trails remain closed until further notice due to post-fire hazards. For other hiking opportunities, visit the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Areas website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/crgnsa/recreation. Check out these open recreation sites within the Gorge and in nearby areas.

Can I see other waterfalls on the waterfall corridor? (Horsetail Falls, Wakheena Falls)

Shepperd’s Dell, Wahkeena, Oneonta, and Horsetail Falls remain closed at this time. Work is still ongoing to mitigate hazards on the Historic Columbia River Highway so the roadway is not yet safe enough to reopen access.

Talbot State Park (which has a short trail leading to Latourell Falls) and Bridal Veil Falls State Park are open, but cannot be accessed from Multnomah Falls. Travelers should access these state parks from Corbett via the Historic Columbia River Highway or utilize Exit 22 or Exit 28 from the Interstate. Check out these open recreation sites within the Gorge and in nearby areas.

When will the rest of Multnomah Falls open?

The next phase of reopening will focus on the lower viewing platform, and will require a rockwall construction fence to be cleared and rebuilt. Nearby slopes must also be cleared of hazard trees and loose rocks (through a process known as rock scaling).

The rest of the trail, which leads to widely recognized Benson Bridge (between the lower and upper falls) and beyond to the upper viewing platform, will require Shady Creek Bridge to be rebuilt. Once the bridge is replaced and the rockfall fence has been rebuilt, a more complete trail assessment will be conducted to determine if there are additional repairs required before the trail can open.

What is the timeline for the rest of Multnomah Falls open?

Rebuilding the rockwall catchment fence, hazard tree removal, and rock scaling will take several weeks and the work is very weather-dependent so the current anticipated opening of the lower viewing platform is early 2018.

The full trail assessment and repair will take longer, and is also weather dependent. It may be summer 2018 before visitors can hike to Benson Bridge. There is no timeline yet for the remaining section from Benson Bridge to the upper falls.

What was the cost of ensuring the area was safe?

USFS is investing more than $600,000 on the initial mitigations in the lodge area. The direct costs to repairing smoke damage at the lodge were covered by the concessionaire, Multnomah Falls Company, Inc.

Find out more about Eagle Creek Fire Response

Eagle Creek Fire Response graphic