Columbia Gorge Fire Threatens Natural Hiking Beauty

Tom Malone/Adventure Tribune
After more than five days of burning, massive fires in the Columbia Gorge have merged, destroying more than 31,000 acres of pristine forestland on the Oregon/Washington border.

The Columbia Gorge could be the nation’s most scenic natural oasis. With stunning views of the Columbia River through dense forest atop cascading waterfalls, nothing beats the natural beauty of the geographic phenomenon that borders Oregon and Washington.

Last weekend, however, a 15-year-old lit the forests along the Columbia Gorge ablaze with fireworks, sparking a fire that has grown uncontrollable. The fire has increased its force over the last five days.

“This is a scary time for Oregon,” said Oregon’s U.S. Senator,  Jeff Merkley. “Our air is choked with wildfire smoke; our friends and neighbors are on the front lines fighting fires; our communities are being threatened.”

Currently, the fire has destroyed more than 31,000 acres of forest in some of the country’s most popular hiking destinations. The fire remains zero-percent contained, though dozens of fire crews are working to to subdue the flames in the difficult terrain.

On Tuesday, Multnomah Falls was engulfed in flames, though the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge was saved from destruction - a landmark that has drawn outdoor adventurers since 1925. With more than two million adventurers visiting the 620-foot waterfall per year, Multnomah Falls is the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The usually picturesque Columbia Gorge is currently engulfed in flames. (Tom Malone / Adventure Tribune)

Other popular hiking sites, like Horsetail Falls and Triple Falls, have been completely consumed by the fire.

The Portland-Metro area, accustomed to rain throughout the year, has seen little rainfall in the late summer months, making the forest around the city unusually dry. The dry forest, paired with the notorious gusts in the Columbia Gorge (the Windsurfing Capital of the World), makes for a disastrous wildfire.

Air quality in nearby Portland, Ore. is terrible; ash is falling from the sky and coating anything in its path. Even college athletic teams have fled the Willamette Valley to escape the threat of ash in their lungs.

U.S. Forest Service workers and Oregon State police are working to contain the fire, which continues to burn out of control.


Tom Malone is the Editor-In-Chief of The Adventure Tribune and author of adventure novels, like Across Americana. He is based in Denver, Colorado, where he adventures through the Rocky Mountains while not traveling abroad.
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