One of Oregon’s busiest recreation areas, the roughly seven-mile stretch between Ainsworth State Park and Bridal Veil Falls better known as the “Waterfall Corridor” is officially closed to recreation, according to a joint statement from the Forest Service, State Parks, and ODOT. It comes following a weekend of particularly high outdoor recreation in the Gorge, Mt. Hood, and the Oregon coast. Stir-crazy Oregonians, it seems, are not abiding by the six-foot rule in wilderness areas, particularly on trails where maintaining a safe social distance just isn’t possible.
The Waterfall Corridor includes the some of the state’s most heavily trafficked sights, including Multnomah Falls, Angels Rest, Wahkeena Falls, and Horsetail Falls. Oneonta Trail and Lower Oneonta Falls were already closed for reconstruction from the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.
While outdoor recreation closures due to the coronavirus up until now have been state-mandated, these new restrictions include federally owned national scenic areas—federal agencies worked in tandem with the state to cordon off the area along the Historic Columbia Scenic Highway. Rachel Pawlitz, the forest service public affairs officer for the Gorge, says wilderness restrictions are likely to continue expanding.
“The Gorge is well known for being one of the most congested areas around here, so we are often the crucible in terms of figuring stuff out. But I’m getting word from Gifford Pinchot National Forest [in Washington] that their sites are under heavy use. By middle of last week Mt. Hood was already being heavily used.” Pawlitz says that even though parts of the Gorge are federal, they are following whomever has the strictest guidelines—in this case, the state.” In other words, the Mt. Hood National Forest or Crater Lake National Park could be next.
What sort of law enforcement do rule-breaking outdoors-people face? They’re still working on that part, says Pawlitz. “It’s not just going to be an honor system. There are some federal authorities we can use to enforce this right now. It is possible for people to get citations right now, but we would really just prefer it if people would stay home.”