Wildfire in 2017 Did Not Affect Eagle Creek Trail’s Status as One of Oregon’s Top Trails

Eagle Creek Trail: The Eagle Creek Trail in Oregon is the site of one of the state’s most devastating and widely publicized wildfires in the past decade, but there are times when you can easily forget that.

When autumn arrives, the canyon is a blaze of golden color, and waterfalls cascade down cliffsides in every direction, reminding hikers why this is often regarded as one of Oregon’s five best treks.

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Wildfire in 2017 Did Not Affect Eagle Creek Trail’s Status

In spite of the obvious effects of the fires, the burn scar is not particularly severe for the most part of the trail. Plenty of “good fire,” in which trees may have black scorch marks but the canopy is still standing and the forest floor is covered with ferns, moss, or the golden color of bigleaf maple occurs frequently.

But every once in a while, you’ll hear the thunderous crack and crash of a fire-weakened tree splitting in two and plunging down the canyon. Because even if the path has “healed” from the Eagle Creek Fire of 2017, the conflagration that occurred here five years ago will continue to make this an unstable and dynamic location full of falling trees and landslides.

“The vast majority of trees that were killed in the fire are still standing with compromised root structures which means they do fall down very regularly,” said Karen Davis, a spokesperson for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Furthermore, debris and mudslides occur frequently. Five years have passed since the fire, but there is still a lot to be cautious about, particularly after major storms.

In fact, landslides have caused the Eagle Creek Trail to be closed or blocked many times since it was formally reopened just last year. And I expect that to occur once more.

But as of this November, you can go the entire breathtaking 3.3 miles to High Bridge without any obstacles in your way. A few landslides and a tough creek crossing lie ahead, but the last three kilometers to Tunnel Falls are accessible and manageable.

Wildfire in 2017 Did Not Affect Eagle Creek Trail
Wildfire in 2017 Did Not Affect Eagle Creek Trail

With the exception of a few low-elevation snowstorms and the aforementioned landslides, it is still one of the best treks in Oregon, and one of the few that remain open throughout the winter.

Many of the trail’s traditional charms remain unchanged, such as the brilliant fall foliage, the opportunity to stroll along the brink of sheer cliffs, and the sight of seemingly never-ending waterfalls (Punchbowl Falls being the most famous).

Davis noted that several previously hidden waterfalls are now visible following a shower due to the clearing caused by the fire.

Something that has always impressed me about it is how well it can lay the groundwork for the kind of day you hope to have.

The 2.2-mile (4.4-mile round-trip) journey to Punchbowl Falls is short, flat, and very child-friendly.

Take a day to trek the 6.6-mile round-trip to the appropriately named High Bridge, and then relax with a late lunch in Cascade Locks.

Tunnel Falls is the culmination of a 6-mile (round-trip) hike through some of the Gorge’s most scenic terrain.

Wildfires of varying intensities can be observed here, making this an excellent learning opportunity.

Low-intensity fires line the trail for the first few miles and for much of the distance to High Bridge; high on the ridges, the rows of dead trees attest to the ferocity of the fire. The path continues on through more heavily burned vegetation later on.

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Reasons Why the Eagle Creek Fire Started

Most Oregonians are familiar with the origin of the Eagle Creek Fire: a teenager carelessly tossed a firecracker down the trail on a scorching day in early September 2017.

The story of the 150 hikers who were trapped by the fire and had to spend the night in the forest before going out the long way is not widely known. Among them were nine youngsters from Salem.

You can visit www.focushillsboro.com for the latest news. If you have any queries or suggestions can put them in our comment section.

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