Clackamas River corridor set to reopen after major wildfire damage

By April Ehrlich (OPB)
April 9, 2022 5:57 p.m.

Oregon Highway 224 is expected to open May 1, but trails and campsites will remain closed

After more than a year of extensive repairs following massive wildfires in 2020, the Clackamas River corridor is slated to reopen to the public on May 1.

The Riverside, Lionshead and Beachie Creek fires destroyed “virtually all” U.S. Forest Service sites along Oregon Highway 224 over the 2020 Labor Day weekend, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation. Even when the highway reopens in May, visitors should expect limited recreational opportunities.


“There’s not going to be a lot to do other than to look at the damage,” said Don Hamilton, ODOT spokesman.

A guardrail along a highway with a view of evergreen trees and slopes in the distance.

Oregon highway workers replaced a dozen miles of guardrail on Highway 224 after much of this river corridor was destroyed by the 2020 Labor Day Weekend fires.

Oregon Department of Transportation / Oregon Department of Transportation


The 11 campgrounds along Highway 224 will remain closed, even for day-use. All but two boat ramps — Hole in the Wall and Moor — will remain closed, as will all hiking trails. The beloved Riverside Trail, which once weaved through an expanse of old-growth trees, lost six bridges and may not reopen for several more years.

Kayakers and rafters can still launch into the river through several access points, but what they see won’t be pretty.

“It’s really not going to look like it used to look,” Hamilton said. “It’s going to be really damaged. It’s going to look very different. It’s going to be a long time before we can even see normal again.”

A curved stretch of road is covered in debris and surrounded by dead, burned trees.

A 19-mile stretch of Oregon Highway 224 — the Clackamas River corridor in the Mt. Hood National Forest — was destroyed by wildfires in September 2020.

Oregon Department of Transportation / Oregon Department of Transportation

About 60,000 fire-damaged trees along the highway have been removed. Road workers have also repaved this stretch of highway, replaced road signs, replaced a dozen miles of guardrail, and installed wire mesh on hillsides to prevent rockslides. Before installing the mesh, workers had to scale the cliffs and remove loose rocks with crowbars.

Hamilton said repairs are ongoing, so there’s a chance that the May 1 reopening date could be pushed back.


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