A series of cracks spreading along a 100-foot section of a popular hiking trail that leads to the top of Multnomah Falls spurred officials to close things down for a month to complete important stability work.
U.S. Forest Service Crews began reconstructing a section of Larch Mountain Trail No. 441, near Multnomah Falls, Monday, Sept. 20, for a project anticipated to be completed in four to five weeks. The section of trail is just past Benson Bridge, above the lower viewing platform, and before hikers round a bend and begin the series of 11 switchbacks to the top of the falls.
During the repairs, hikers will not be able to progress beyond Benson Bridge. There will also be intermittent closures of the entire trail, including Benson Bridge, as contractors lug equipment and supplies.
"If we weren't doing this the trail would slide down into the creek," said Chris Martin, geotechnical engineer with the U.S. Forest Service. "And if that happened it would have been nearly impossible to rebuild."
Throughout the work the Historic Lodge, including the restaurant and gift shop, will remain open.
The damage to the trail was instigated by the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017, which burned away vegetation leading to increased ground water flow into the basalt rock mass upon which the trail was built. Adding to that lack of plant coverage was the needed removal of hazard trees around the popular tourist destination in 2018, and this past summer's historic heat wave also didn't help.
It was discovered this spring, and officials have been closely monitoring the trail to ensure the safety of visitors.
To prevent a collapse, crews are drilling 20-foot holes every 6 inches along the damaged section of trail — 200 in total. Then they will insert steel pipes filled with grout to provide stabilization. Once everything is in place, they will cover up the work so nothing will be noticeable. Officials made a point during planning to not lose any of the historical feel or aesthetics of the trail nor change the route in any way.
"You won't even know work has been done," Martin said.
The goal is to have everything finished before freezing temperatures this winter.
Larch Mountain Trail was constructed more than 100 years ago after the completion of Benson Bridge in 1915, and remains an integral feature of the Multnomah Falls experience. Officials said of the annual 1.2 million people who visit the site, nearly a third will hike past Benson Bridge.
Visitors are encouraged to call the Multnomah Falls Visitor Information Center at 503-695-2372 to check the status of the viewing platform and bridge before visiting.
And for those still itching to hike up to the top of the iconic waterfall and the upper viewing platform, there are alternate routes for the more adventurous. Visit readysetgorge.com/land-status to see what trails are open.
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