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

Forest Service road work planned for two phases

Hazardous tree removal and road repair work that Willamette National Forest officials are working on will be done in two phases.

Michelle King, ranger at the US Forest Service’s Detroit Ranger District, advised the Detroit City Council about the plans at the council’s Sept. 12 meeting and also conducted an email exchange with The Canyon Weekly.

Phase one, which will begin later this fall, includes Highway 46 (the Breitenbush highway), Whitewater (FSR 2243), and Halls Ridge/French Creek (FSR 2223) and covers 40 of the overall 200 miles of forest roads to be addressed.

Michelle King
Michelle King

“There is substantial work still to be done on Highway 46,” King said “We were able to remove imminent hazards to open the road to passenger vehicles this summer. However, there are still additional fire-affected trees that need to be removed and substantial road work and road building that needs to occur. 

“We do not have an exact date when the remaining work will start on Highway 46, but it could be later this fall and would likely include road closures. The schedule will depend on the contractors’ operations and weather conditions.”

The work on the Whitewater road, King noted, will not lead to an early opening of the trailhead that offers one of the more popular routes into Jefferson Park.

“The Whitewater trailhead is still closed,” King said. “The Whitewater road has several miles of danger tree removal and road repair planned.”

King also noted that other trails into the Jefferson Park area are open and accessible by hikers and backpackers from other trailheads, including Woodpecker, Pamelia Lake, Marion Lake and Breitenbush Lake.

Regarding phase 2, King said, “the Forest Service is preparing the contract for the remaining approximately 160 miles this fall and early winter. We hope to go out for bid on that contract this winter.  It is still a little early to know how soon work will occur on those 160 miles. It could start in the spring or summer of 2024.” King added that the 160 miles “range all over the Detroit district.”

King also said that the conclusion of phase 2 means the roads and trailheads into the popular Opal Creek Wilderness Area will finally be open. The Opal Creek area was the starting point for the Beachie Creek Fire in 2020 and public interest will be high in hiking and exploring that piece of the forest once the coast is clear.

King also urged caution and patience as the Forest Service works to complete the restoration.

“We understand that the public is anxious to visit their favorite places in the forest, and we are looking forward to that as well,” she said.  “We appreciate the public’s patience as we complete this high-priority work. Even once these roads are open, individuals should still use caution when traveling through any burned area. Hazards will continue for many years to come as burned trees deteriorate.”

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