COLUMBIA GORGE, Ore. -- Although many popular hiking trails are still closed in the Columbia Gorge following last year’s Eagle Creek Fire, people are still heading out into the wilderness there – and that’s causing lots of problems for rescuers.
Closed areas are marked by signs and barricades, but officials say people are disregarding them and traipsing into dangerous territory.
Five different agencies released a joint statement on Friday, urging people to stop coming to the closed areas after dangerous incidents occurred.
The U.S. Forest Service, Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon Parks and Recreation District, Oregon Department of Transportation and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office all said hikers who trespass into these areas will be held criminally liable for their actions.
Rescuers have had to extract five hikers in two separate incidents after they became lost on closed trails. On Feb. 10, three kids trespassed in the Herman Creek area and got lost. On March 14, two hikers jumped a barrier in the Angel’s Rest area and also got lost.
It’s not only dangerous for hikers, but also rescuers.
“Responders are placed at greater risk than normal when going into the burn-affected areas due to significant hazards, such as rockfall, landslides, and fire-weakened trees,” the release said.
Rescuers may not risk their safety to help people who trespass, officials said.
"Those who choose to trespass into closed areas face potential criminal charges, and the safety of volunteers will be weighed first when considering Search and Rescue response for those who become injured or lost," said Deputy Joel Ives with the Hood River County Sheriff's Office.
The agencies reminded people the following areas remain closed:
- Benson State Recreation Area
- Shepperd's Dell State Natural Area
- Angel's Rest Trailhead, the trail and parking
- John B. Yeon Trailhead, trail and parking
- Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail trailheads and trail between John Yeon and Cascade Locks, including Toothrock Trailhead, trail and parking, Ainsworth Day Use, and Starvation Creek State Park
- All National Forest System lands also remain closed within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area south of I-84, west of Starvation Creek, and east of Alex Barr and Thompson Mill Road with the exception of the Multnomah Falls lodge building, snack area, and plaza.
For the latest closures, visit www.fs.usda.gov/crgnsa