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

Shellburg Falls remains closed – The popular hiking spot might not reopen until 2024

Forget about visiting Shellburg Falls this summer or perhaps even the rest of the year. And forget about camping there, too. That change might be permanent, or as permanent as things get in our wildfire-scarred world.

Oregon Department of Forestry officials offered an update May 19 on post-2020 wildfire rehabilitation at recreation sites in the Santiam State Forest. And the news was not good.

“Unfortunately, with fire season already here and special requirements to protect sensitive areas during reconstruction we are hopeful that the area will be open later this year,” said Mike Wilson, state forests division chief, of Shellburg. “September would be the most optimistic date, but it very well could reopen later — even some time in 2024. It just depends on how fast the work gets done and if we run into unexpected issues.”

The ODF has been working to reopen trails and recreation facilities in the Santiam State Forest after many were severely impacted by the 2020 Beachie Creek Fire. Approximately 16,000 acres, more than a third of the Santiam State Forest’s 47,000 acres, were affected by the wildfire.

Shellburg Falls and Lower Shellburg Falls are the most visited spots in the forest, but the falls also happened to be in the area of the forest most affected by the wildfires, Wilson said.   

“In the falls area the fire destroyed bridges, trail erosion protections, stairs, and other wooden infrastructure critical for the safety of trail users and protection of the environment,” Wilson said. 

In 2021 and 2022 ODF did post-fire timber harvesting and roadside hazard mitigation for safety and to improve the survival and health of the remaining trees. ODF also replanted trees. 

ODF officials said they originally anticipated that the Shellburg Falls area would reopen by now. However, the process has taken longer, largely due to the limited resources available to conduct operations across the entire affected landscape, including the private property of neighboring landowners.

The most direct way into Shellburg Falls used to involve crossing private property from a trailhead off of Fern Ridge Road. Concerns of the property owners forced the closure of that trailhead, with hikers forced to take a longer, windier route to the falls camping area via Wagner Road and Ayers Creek Road.

Since the fire, the ODF has been planning and budgeting for reconstruction and improvements to the falls area. Projects include replacement of bridges, rerouting portions of trail to eliminate the use of wooden stairs and improvements to the trails themselves to reduce environmental impacts. 

The small, rustic overnight camping area with seven sites will not be reconstructed at this time mainly due to fire safety concerns for the remaining trees, ODF officials said. The current plan calls for a day use/picnic area with vault toilets.

The reconstruction budget is estimated to be around $100,000. 

The ODF has been successful in reopening other sites, including  the Monument Peak Trail system, Santiam Horse Camp, Rock Creek Campground, and the Natural Arch and Rocky Top Trails.

Also still closed are recreation facilities in the northern block of the Santiam mainly due to ongoing work to remove fire-killed trees that pose a threat to public safety. However, ODF is anticipating those areas will open later this fall if the work stays on schedule this summer.

To find out more about the Santiam State Forest recovery work go to https://www.oregon.gov/odf/recreation/Pages/santiam-state-forest.aspx.

Previous Article

Babysitter, toddler escape Scio house fire

Next Article

State lawmakers amend agriculture bill

You might be interested in …

Scio, Santiam football look to rebound Friday

The Scio football team will be looking to overcome its first loss of the season on Friday night when the Loggers host Salem Academy at 7 p.m. in a Special District 2 matchup. Scio, which […]

2020 fires had lasting impacts, study shows

OSU, Marion County gather health data, offer solutions By James Day The Labor Day 2020 wildfires ripped the heart out of the Santiam Canyon and left individuals, families, communities, businesses and agencies reeling with how […]

Correction on recovery group story

Material published in a story in the Oct. 27 editions on the Santiam Long Term Recovery Group and Santiam Hospital’s Disaster Services Case Management needs to be clarified. Here is a statement (edited for clarity) […]