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Full Access Restored to Eagle Creek (OR)

Posted: 05/12/2022
By: Scott Harding

We’re happy to announce that the U.S. Forest Service has lifted its long-term closure of Eagle Creek and paddlers are now able to legally paddle the creek, including Punchbowl Falls. The Forest Service had closed thousands of acres of land to public access for nearly five years following the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, closing the creek itself to paddling and other uses. American Whitewater advocated for this re-opening and played a key role in ensuring that Punchbowl Falls was not closed just as access to the creek was reopened.

 

Even prior to the 2017 fire, the Forest Service had closed Punchbowl Falls to all public access due to multiple injuries and deaths of inexperienced cliff jumpers who jumped off a 65-foot-high cliff adjacent to the falls. This closure prohibited paddlers from legally running the iconic 30-foot waterfall that is one of the main draws to this hike-in boating run in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. In addition to losing the ability to run the falls, the closure made it difficult for paddlers to navigate the run by requiring a difficult portage around the closure area surrounding the falls.

 

Since early 2021, American Whitewater had been advocating for the Forest Service to lift the long-term post-fire closure so the public could once again hike into the Eagle Creek canyon and access the creek. We recently learned that the Forest Service was preparing to lift the closure that had been in effect since September 2017, but that it was planning to simultaneously close Punchbowl Falls to all access once again.

 

This April, we engaged the Forest Service again and provided detailed information that supported our request to keep Punchbowl Falls open to paddlers and canyoneers, both of whom have a long history of safe use of the falls. 

 

On April 29, the Forest Service re-opened Eagle Creek and acted upon our request to keep the falls open. For the first time since at least 2013, it is now completely legal for paddlers to run the full length of Eagle Creek, including Punchbowl Falls. And with boating season still going on, boaters have been hiking into the creek to take the epic plunge over Punchbowl and the other waterfalls on this spectacular run.

 

While we are pleased the creek is now open, please be aware of the sensitivities regarding public safety. As with any high-challenge creek run, it is important to make smart decisions, but keep in mind that Eagle Creek and Punchbowl Falls in particular are receiving extra scrutiny from land managers due to the history of cliff jumping accidents.

 

Punchbowl Falls photo: Lucas Quintero. Paddler: Tara Blair.

Documents

Eagle Creek Closure Letter (1/21/2021)

Letter from American Whitewater and The Mountaineers regarding extended closure of Eagle Creek.

Eagle Creek and Punchbowl Falls Closures (4/15/2022)

Comment to Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area regarding Forest Order 06-22-01-21-09.

Associated Rivers

Eagle Creek OR
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