Portland/ Parks & Nature
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Published on June 18, 2024
Butte Creek Falls Set to Reopen After Four-Year Closure Due to Oregon WildfiresSource: Wikipedia/Ian Sane from Oregon, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nature enthusiasts can rejoice as Butte Creek Falls, an Oregon treasure nestled in the Santiam State Forest, is set to reopen on June 21, 2024, nearly four years after closing due to the devastating 2020 wildfires. The Beachie Creek Fire, which tragically claimed five lives and destroyed 486 homes while scorching over 400,000 acres, spared the area surrounding the upper and lower falls, according to Oregon Department of Forestry Recreation Manager Joe Offer. Described as "one of the true gems of the state forests’ recreations areas" by ODF, the falls have been eagerly awaited by the public, sparking a collective sigh of relief at their impending reopening, as reported by KOIN.

Rehabilitation of the beloved site was an arduous journey, involving extensive safety measures and technical tree harvesting, as well as overcoming challenges posed by the high elevation and limited availability of contractors. Kyle Kaupp, Santiam Unit Forester, described the operation as "the largest and most challenging of all ODF’s post-fire restoration timber sales," with over 20 miles of hazard tree mitigation needed across several road systems. Efforts to restore this natural enclave involved carrying out improvements such as a new shooting range with a gravel backdrop, concrete barriers, and updated signage, which is now set to welcome visitors off the Butte Creek Mainline Road. In coordination with inmate crews from the South Fork Forest Camp and the DOC's Santiam Correctional Institute, progress towards reopening has been steady. "There was a lot of vegetation and debris on the trails," Offer mentioned in a release, underscoring the extensive groundwork required to return the falls to their visitors, according to KATU.

The area now boasts a trailhead that accommodates five to six vehicles, along with three tent campsites at the campground. Additional parking is accessible at the campground, including a connector trail leading to the falls. Visitors eager to bask in the beauty of Congress Creek Falls can look forward to future expansions of both parking lots and campgrounds, although ODF's current focus has been on making the necessary amenities available without delay.

As the ODF embarks on replanting trees for the region's resurgence, visitors should note that the High Lakes Recreation Area remains closed due to ongoing salvage harvest operations, and are asked to refrain from entering until all activities are completed. Despite the arduous journey to healing, the promise of Butte Creek Falls' return serves as a beacon of natural resilience and a testament to communal fortitude in the face of adversity.