COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, Ore. (AP) — Some trails and day use sites in the Columbia River Gorge are reopening Wednesday, while crowded sites including most waterfall viewing areas, campgrounds, and visitor’s centers will stay closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, state and federal agencies said.
Officials from Washington and Oregon, along with the USDA Forest Service, said Wednesday that land managers followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health authorities’ guidance for the outdoor recreation sector in deciding what could reopen.
The public should expect fewer available trails, activities, and services in the gorge through the summer, officials said, because reopening in full likely will span several months.
In times of crisis, whether it's a fire, flood, or pandemic, I've always been proud of how Oregonians step up to take care of one another. I stand with mayors from across the state in appreciating all of you who kept it local over the holiday weekend. pic.twitter.com/cETtRWIxiv— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) May 26, 2020
Decisions are being made in the interest of protecting the health of the public as well as local communities and agency employees, and sites could close again if crowded conditions are deemed unsafe, officials said. Agencies are coordinating access to public lands and waterways in a way that encourages visitors to disperse across as many alternative recreation opportunities as possible, officials said.
Most waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls and others along the stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway remain shut because they draw millions of visitors from around the world each summer. Dog Mountain, Beacon Rock Trail, and several other narrow hiking trails also remain closed.
The driveable portion of the Historic Columbia River Highway, also known as US 30 or the Scenic Byway, is also still closed between Larch Mountain Road and Ainsworth.
The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail is now open to pedestrians and bicyclists from Hood River to Mosier as well as many day use trails, parks and other sites on both the Washington and Oregon sides of the river.
Visitors are asked to plan ahead by checking agency websites or ReadySetGorge.com to see what is open and to consider alternate recreation activities in case their first choice is too crowded.