PORTLAND, Ore. — Virtually all hiking trails, viewpoints, waterfalls and parks in the Columbia River Gorge will be closed to the public, following the latest closures of public lands amid the coronavirus outbreak in the Pacific Northwest.
The U.S. Forest Service announced Thursday that all forest land on the Oregon and Washington sides of the Columbia Gorge will temporarily close to the public, effective today and lasting until further notice.
“It became apparent that there are too many people converging on both developed and unofficial recreation sites to ensure proper social distancing,” forest officials said in a news release. “Crowd sizes were too large to comply with current health authority guidelines, and we cannot ensure a COVID-19 free environment.”
The new closures include all developed recreation sites, like trailheads and day-use areas, but also backpacking trails, user-made trails and all other land managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
The announcement comes after forest officials previously closed several individual trails in the gorge, like Dog Mountain and Angels Rest.
Oregon and Washington state parks have also closed to the public, shutting several of the state park sites on both sides of the Columbia Gorge. Skamania County closed all recreational hiking, and trails managed by Friends of the Columbia Gorge will also close to the public. The Columbia River itself will be closed to salmon and steelhead fishing.
That leaves virtually no recreation areas open within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
“We acknowledge that this closure comes at a time when many were seeking respite in natural areas," said Lynn Burditt, forest supervisor for the national scenic area. “This is a temporary pause to help health authorities get the COVID-19 pandemic under control.”
This article was originally published by Oregonian/Oregonlive, one of more than a dozen news organizations throughout the state sharing their coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving health issue.