News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Bit by bit, recreation areas open up

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

Many of the Santiam Canyon’s prime recreation spots remain closed amid fire damage from the 2020 blazes, but things are loosening up a bit.

The U.S. Forest Service, in an Aug. 1 announcement from its main Willamette National Forest office in Springfield, noted that it has increased access to more than 186,641 acres of forest land previously subject to fire closures.

The forest service also is opening its offices, which had been closed  to the public while officials worked via mail, telephone and online. Included is the Detroit Ranger Station.

“After addressing the most critical rehabilitation work and posting information for visitors about natural hazards, we now feel it is appropriate to re-open these areas,” said Duane Bishop, acting forest supervisor, in a press release. Updated maps of fire-affected closures are available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/willamette/alerts-notices/?cid=fseprd552029.

The Forest Service statement says “visitors should expect a changed experience. This could include roads and trails blocked by fallen trees, hard-to-navigate stands of burned trees, eroded slopes that lack signage, and missing sections of trail.”

“Play it safe,” Bishop said, “by choosing activities that are within your comfort zone. As fire-impacted areas reopen, they may have unmarked hazards and may be more challenging in rescue situations.”

A 10-mile or so stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness  will remain closed for important trail rehabilitation work, but Forest Service Road 46 in the Breitenbush area is open for the first 10 or so miles after leaving Detroit. At that point, however, the road is open only to non-motorized uses, such as biking or hiking. All other Forest Service roads included in these closure orders remain closed to both motorized and non-motorized use. 

The Opal Creek Wilderness is “open,” but the roads that lead to the trailhead in the Little North Fork/Elkhorn area are closed.

A clarifying statement from Marion County officials noted that “while sections of the forest may technically be open, many points of access, including some trailheads, roads, and recreation sites, remain closed due to ongoing repairs and hazard removal to ensure safe travel to popular recreation spots on county managed roads.”

Marion County parks in the North Fork/Elkhorn region, including North Fork, Salmon Falls and Bear Creek, remain closed. In the Highway 22 corridor North Santiam and Packsaddle are open, but Minto and Niagara are closed. 

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Fishermen’s Bend, a key piece in the kayak/rafting shuttle system along the North Santiam River, is open, but all other BLM facilities within the Beachie Creek/Riverside fire closure regions “will remain closed until Oct. 1, 2022,”said John Hudson, BLM field manager.

Detroit Lake State Park and its Mongold day use area are open for business, as are both marinas in Detroit, although both the Detroit Lake Marina and Kane’s Marina are operating in temporary structures after their permanent buildings burned in the 2020 fires.

Marion County officials continue to work on a restoration and upgrade plan for its seven Canyon park properties. The final draft of that plan is scheduled to be unveiled at a Sept. 15 meeting of the Marion County Parks Commission.

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