During the summer, hundreds of people hike to Punchbowl Falls every day. However, for at least a year Punchbowl Falls is about as far as you can go up the Eagle Creek Trail. A bridge on the trail above Punchbowl Falls that crosses Tish Creek was wiped out this winter, and the process to have the stream passable again will be long and costly:
One of the most popular hikes in the Columbia River Gorge just got a whole lot shorter.Eagle Creek Trail will be closed for at least a year, according to the U.S. Forest Service, due to a downed bridge that was destroyed by a falling tree in a storm this past December.That bridge is at the Tish Creek crossing, about two miles from the Eagle Creek trailhead. The hike allows access up to Punch Bowl Falls, but cuts off access to the bigger and more spectacular waterfalls beyond –Metlako Falls, Tunnel Falls and Twister Falls.Stan Hinatsu, recreation officer for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, said it will take at least a year to get the project off the ground and secure the funding, which he says is in the “tens of thousands” of dollars.That cost will go to replacing the 40-foot-long metal truss bridge in kind, a project that will require a helicopter to get the broken bridge out and the new one in.“It’s going to be a pretty expensive bridge,” he said.If the funding came faster – from, say, a generous benefactor or a crowdfunding effort – it could cut up to six months off the timeline.Until then, the trail crossing remains tenuous, and officials are nervous it could soon turn dangerous. Since December, hikers have been cutting either through the creek or over the broken bridge, a shortcut the forest service does not condone. While fording the creek might look safe, any slip-up could send a hiker to a 15-foot waterfall downstream.“It’s a dangerous crossing,” Hinatsu said. “We do not encourage nor do we recommend anybody to cross it.”There are other ways to access the upper part of the trail, though both will make the hike significantly more difficult.You can drive around the east side of the gorge to Wahtum Lake (an hour from Hood River), where the Eagle Creek Trail ends. From there you’d have a 14-mile round-trip hike out to Tunnel Falls and back.Alternately, Ruckel Creek Trail makes for a steep and unforgiving detour just east of Eagle Creek. About 4 miles down you can connect to the Pacific Crest Trail going south, which runs 1.2 miles to the Eagle Benson Trail. That winds 2.5 miles back to the Eagle Creek Trail past Wy’East Falls, making a trip to Tunnel Falls and back a whopping 20-mile trek.Otherwise, you’ll just have to be patient, and cross Eagle Creek off your to-hike list until next year. Happy (other) trails, Oregon.
SRC: Find the article at Oregon Live.com here: www.oregonlive.com/travel/index.ssf/2016/03/eagle_creek_trail_will_be_clos.html
SRC Photo: Read the Statesman Journal article about this trail closure here: www.statesmanjournal.com/story/travel/outdoors/2016/03/10/eagle-creek-trail-closed-columbia-river-gorge/81610874/
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