article photo 2

Opportunity to Determine Future of Punch Bowl Falls on the Hood River (OR)

Posted: 01/22/2015
by Thomas O'Keefe

Punch Bowl Falls is one of Oregon’s iconic scenic and recreational sites, and the Hood is the go-to river for boaters in the Columbia River Gorge. Above the Falls, the West Fork of the Hood flows through two beautiful gorges. It provides an opportunity for boaters to test and strengthen their Class IV skills with consistently fun rapids at a variety of flows. Below the falls, the West Fork joins the East Fork to form the Hood River, where boaters can enjoy Class III water on a newly free-flowing river following the removal of Powerdale Dam. The area around the Falls is not only an important access point for boaters, but is significant to the overall community. Located in a stunning canyon, it provides a sanctuary for salmon, access for fishing and swimming and has great potential for day use.

While the site has been used by the boating community and the general public for decades, it is in fact private land. A few years ago Western Rivers Conservancy purchased 102 acres surrounding the falls, including 2 miles of river, to protect it from development. Based in Portland, OR, Western Rivers Conservancy protects outstanding river ecosystems in the western United States by acquiring private lands and transferring them to long-term stewards for permanent conservation and management.
Western Rivers Conservancy intents to sell the $1.1-million property to Hood River County to manage as a Park. The Hood River Valley Residents Committee has initiated a process to solicit community feedback on the idea and an initial meeting this month drew approximately 60 supporters of the idea. In addition, several hundred individuals have responded to an online survey. If the County is not able to secure funds (the most likely source is an Oregon State Parks grant program), it is possible that Western Rivers Conservancy would sell the property to a private buyer with a conservation easement but with no provisions for continued public access.
Our goal at American Whitewater is to see this site protected for public use and enjoyment with minimal park facilities and improvement. Members of the boating community can help in the following ways:
1) Attend the next public forum on February 10 at 6 pm, Board of Commissioners Meeting Room, 601 State Street, Hood River, OR
2) Fill out the online survey. Results will be posted on February 15th.
3) If you are a local county resident or business owner, communicate the importance of this site to your County Commissioners and highlight the unique value of this site on a river that has limited public access. If you represent a paddling club or organization who can speak to the regional significance of this site, consider a letter to the County Commissioners.
4) Contact us if you have a deeper interest in getting more involved with site planning or taking a site tour to discuss this opportunity. We have a good group of American Whitewater members who have volunteered but welcome others.
More Background
In the News:
Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012

Associated Rivers

Hood, West Fork OR
Hood OR

Associated Projects

Hood River Access
American Whitewater is committed to securing public access for the Hood River and its major tributaries.