Originally published July 8, 2017 at midnight, updated July 8, 2017 at midnight
On July 8, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Forest Service and the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office are teaming up to promote safety this summer at Eagle Creek Recreation Area.
The number of Search and Rescues (SARs) has steadily increased in recent years in the vicinity of Eagle Creek. This can drain valuable resources at the Sheriff’s Office and lead to burnout among volunteers.
“Hood River County has a well-deserved reputation as an outdoor playground, but visitors should take their safety seriously,” said Hood River County Sheriff Matt English. “Too many Search and Rescues and tragic accidents each year are caused by reckless, irresponsible behavior.”
Past fatalities and serious injuries at Eagle Creek have involved visitors incurring neck or back injuries after jumping off 80-foot Punch Bowl Falls. Dangerous undercurrents and thick sediment in the water below makes the pool at the base of Lower Punch Bowl seem shallower than it is and the water remains dangerously cold year round. Signs near Punch Bowl warn visitors not to jump, yet tragic incidents occur every year.
Between 2014-2016, the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office had 44 SAR events just at Eagle Creek (11 in 2014, 16 in 2015, and 17 in 2016).
The Hood River County Sheriff’s Office and Forest Service hope to prevent such tragedies by holding a joint “saturation patrol” July 8 to raise visibility about the issue and prevent jumping at Punch Bowl Falls this summer.
“We ask visitors not to cross the barrier near the top of Punch Bowl Falls, in order to prevent their outdoor adventures from becoming tragedies,” said Lynn Burditt, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Manager.
Forest Service employees will also be available to answer visitor’s questions about the status of the Indian Creek Fire and its related trail and area closure. The fire started July 4 about 8 miles up Eagle Creek Trail, so the trail has been closed past the boundary of the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness.
A map of the closure can be found at: bit.ly/indian creekclosure
READ BEFORE YOU LEAVE:
Visitors should check trailhead kiosks and read signs for trail restrictions and closures. Hikers should always carry the ten essentials that include a map and compass, extra food and water, whistle, rain jacket, extra clothing, waterproof matches and fire starter, flashlight, and first-aid kit.
Visitors should not rely on electronic GPS devices or cell phones and always tell someone where they are going and when they expect to return. It’s important to head out early and consider your fitness level when planning a hike. More tips are available at ReadySetGorge.com.