It’s still cold but the spring and summer vacation seasons are fast approaching. That’s left many wondering how the rampant wildfires of 2017 might affect their 2018 vacation plans. Phillip Elden, a conservationist and natural landscape and wildlife expert, answers a few questions about common landmarks in relation to the fires.
Q: What is the status of Mount Jefferson?
Phillip Elden: The Whitewater fire was one of the first to trigger panic throughout the state. It torched more than 11,500 acres of prime hiking and backpacking trails. The fire, which was started by lightning, has not caused any long-term damage to Jefferson Park, though Mount Jefferson remains closed until late spring to early summer.
Q: Was the Columbia River Gorge damaged?
Phillip Elden: More than 100 trails and campsites were decimated throughout the area. Officials hope to reopen most of these by the spring but it’s a wait and see game until forecasters can get a good read on the weather patterns for 2018.
Q: The Kalmiopsis Wilderness sustained quite a bit of damage. Will it reopen in 2018?
Phillip Elden: The good news is that much of it remains open while other areas are not expected to be ready for visitors until late spring. The bad news for the region is that the Chetco Bar Fire touched many of the same areas as the 2002 Biscuit Fire, which scorched more than 500,000 acres. One bright spot of hope here is that Snow Camp got out untouched. Interestingly, the 2017 fires also bypassed the Japanese Bomb Site Trail.
Q: How is the area around Three Sisters Wilderness?
Phillip Elden: This area was hit pretty hard and it was one of the most dramatic wildfires of the year. This 24,000 acre fire cause multiple evacuations and obliterated many campgrounds. Some will open later this year while others may be closed for several seasons.