Oregon opens Butte Creek Falls recreation area | Pets, Animals and Nature

The Butte Creek Falls State Forest recreation area is reopening for the first time since the 2020 Oregon wildfires starting Friday, the Oregon Department of Forestry announced Monday. The area was closed mainly for safety reasons while ODF did post-fire timber harvesting and removed roadside hazardous burned and dead trees, an agency statement reads.

Here is the full announcement from ODF:

ANTIAM STATE FOREST, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) is reopening one of the true gems of the state forests’ recreations areas, Butte Creek Falls, on June 21.

The drive into the recreation area goes though ridges and valleys of burned and blacken trees from the 2020 fires.  The deadly Beachie Creek fires killed several people, destroyed homes and scorched more than 400,000 acres.  However, near the recreation area the trees turn green and the area around the upper and lower waterfalls are lush and untouched by fire.

“We were really fortunate the fires skipped over this area,” said Joe Offer, ODF’s Recreation Program Manager.  “The trailhead and the paths to the two sets of falls are open, so is the camping area and the 100-yard shooting range.”

ODF recreation staff and work crews from the South Fork Forest Camp (A jointly run facility by ODF and the Department of Corrections) and the DOC’s Santiam Correctional Institute have been working hard to get the area open after being closed for nearly four years.

“There was a lot of vegetation and debris on the trails,” said Offer.  “But thanks in large part to the adults in custody crews they are cleared and just last week they repaired one of the foot bridges.  The crew had to transport the lumber, tools, and a generator down the trails to get the job done.”

Another major improvement was made after the 2020 fires but is just now opening.

“The 100-yard shooting range was a joint project with Trash No-Land,” said Offer.  The non-profit dedicated to responsible target shoot works to improve safety and reduce fire risks at dispersed ranges across the state.  Funding for the improvements came from the NRA’s Public Range Fund. The range is located on Butte Creek 615 Road just off the Butte Creek Mainline Road. A new gravel backdrop, concrete barriers at approximately 100-yards, parking and new informational signs were all part of the improvements at the former gravel pit.

Most people head straight to the trailhead that has parking for five or six vehicles while there are three campsites for tents at the campground. There is also additional parking at the campground with a connector trail to the main trail that goes to the falls.

“Our future plan is to expand both parking areas, the campground and offer additional camping opportunities within this northern block of the Santiam,” said Offer.  “But right now we just wanted to get everything open then start working on new improvements.”

The area was closed mainly for safety reasons while ODF did post-fire timber harvesting and removed roadside hazardous burned and dead trees. 

“This operation was the largest and most challenging of all ODF’s post-fire restoration timber sales as it was within one of the highest severity portions of the fires’ footprint,” said Kyle Kaupp, Santiam Unit Forester. “It included more than 20 miles of roadside hazard tree mitigation across multiple road systems, all which were accessible by the same travel route to this recreation area.”

 The work in the area was difficult, but careful consideration of high elevation weather, extensive safety measures, technical harvesting systems, and contractor availability were among the long list of factors that allowed the operation to be successful. 

“ODF has also begun to replant trees for the future of the forested areas, said Kaupp.  “So far, nearly 200,000 seedlings have been planted in this specific area alone.”

And the ODF’s work in the area continues so there are still some restrictions.

“There are salvage harvest operations on-going, so one place that remains closed is the High Lakes Recreation Area,” said Offer.  “We are asking folks to not go into that area until all operations are complete and we determine the best way to manage recreation in such a heavily burned landscape.”   

For updates, more information and maps to the area see the Santiam State Forests recreation site status webpage.  For information on all Oregon State Forests recreation sites visit the ODF Recreation website.  For more information on Trash No Land visit their webpage.

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