The most popular hiking route into Jefferson Park on the side of Mt. Jefferson could be closed until next year.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Forest Service took FOX 12 inside the closure area to show how the Whitewater Trail looks after being ravaged by fire.
“The Whitewater trail is is a very special trail to a lot of people,” Detroit Ranger District, District Ranger Grady McMahan said.
He showed us where several massive trees had fallen blocking the trail and the snags still high up in the trees. McMahan said that is what it is like all the way up until the Whitewater Trail meets with the Pacific Crest Trail.
Suzanne Cable, a staff officer with the Forest Service said it will take years for the forest to repair itself adding fire is a natural part of the ecosystem around Mt. Jefferson.
“It will be really interesting to watch this area change,” Cable said.
She said some of the plants have already started to grow back because of the fire’s intensity and the shade, the old growth forest provided, could take a bit longer for some plants to return.
“Give it a couple hundred years and we’ll have another beautiful forest here.”
As far as cleaning up the trail the Forest Service said they are bringing in extra crews this summer to help with work. They said they have a mix of paid and volunteer crews heading out to other trails as well.
Since the area is a designated wilderness, no motorized tools or vehicles can be used in trail work. Workers will be cutting the massive downed trees by hand as well as repairing eroded trail.
“Without repairing the trail that is going to continue to erode and fall down the hill side,” Cable said.
“When people come up here they are going notice that it has changed a lot,” McMahan said. “It is still very special and I know when you come up around these corners you will have an amazing view of Mt. Jefferson.”
The Whitewater fire was sparked by lightning on July 23, 2017, and grew to 14,451 acres. The blaze forced the closure of many trails in the area of Mt. Jefferson including a section of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Hikers were diverted around the fire at the time. It has since reopened.
The Forest Service said there is access to Jefferson Park, but warn the other routes may be longer, difficult to access the trailhead or more challenging than the Whitewater Trail.
For more information about closures on the Willamette National Forest visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/willamette/alerts-notices.
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