Multnomah Falls Lodge could open this winter as gorge cleanup continues

Cleaning up the Columbia Gorge after the Eagle Creek Fire

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Mutnomah Falls Lodge expects to reopen by the end of the year.

It's been closed since early September when the Eagle Creek Fire came within feet of the iconic structure.

This week, work is underway to install a temporary fence on the slope behind the lodge.

"There's going to be rocks, logs, and other things that could come tumbling down the slope so we want something in place so they don't hit the lodge or damage the lodge or potentially worse," said Rachel Pawlitz, spokeswoman for the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area.

For the first time since the fire, A KGW crew was allowed access not only to the Falls'  lower viewing area, but to the trail leading to up to the waterfall.

But we could only go so far.

Boulders, logs, and a massive burnt tree had fallen on the trail and threatened to fall down to the viewing platform below.

"If that were to further fail and collapse, things would fall right down in that area so it's not safe right now," said Pawlitz.

But getting to the problem area to clean it up will be a challenge.

The fire destroyed a bridge leading up to it. Which is why, even when the lodge itself reopens, the trail behind it will stay closed to visitors.

"They're basically just going to be allowed to kind of come in and go into the immediate vicinity of the lodge in the front area there," explained Pawlitz.

The Forest Service says getting the area around the lodge safe and secure is its top priority.

Crews have also been scaling the slopes above the scenic highway in the area getting rid of loose rocks and debris.

In addition, ODOT brought in a specially equipped helicopter to cut downed trees in areas ground crews cant get to. It has a long metal boom with a saw at the end of it.

Thanks to all these efforts, the Forest Service is optimistic Multnomah Falls Lodge will reopen in the next month and a half.

"We're pretty optimistic that we can get the lodge back open before the end of the year," said Pawlitz, "That's our goal."

© 2017 KGW-TV


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