Hero Buys Naked Falls Swimming Hole So He Can Re-Open It to the Public

A Vancouver man reclaims the swimming area from the logging industry.

Swimming on the Washougal River (Eli Duke)

Naked Falls has reopened to the public thanks to a hero Vancouverite. Last summer, the beloved swimming hole along the Washougal River was declared permanently closed by the timber company that owned the land.

Steven Epling wouldn't abide that.

"It represents the child in me that comes alive every time I get back there," says Epling, who grew up visiting the falls.

In a victory of childhood memories over the logging industry, the 37-year-old credit union manager sold his three rental properties, took out a small loan and bought 131 acres around the falls this past March. (KGW appears to be the first news outlet to visit the re-opened site, which looks gorgeous.)

Weyerhaeuser, the timber company that owned the land, closed the site last June after they finished logging the area because it was a liability.

"Maybe it's naive, but I believe it's more dangerous when no one is allowed to be there," says Epling. "People are getting it back. Are they really going to risk losing it again?"

Epling doesn't have previous experience with natural area management, and says there's been a lot of learning along the way, but he hopes to one day add campgrounds.

It had long been a goal of Epling's to own waterfront property. "This is phenomenally better than anything I imagined," he says. "I feel a tremendous responsibility."

Check out our guides to Portland's best swimming holes:

Best Swimming Holes Near Portland

The Six Best Swimming Spots in the Columbia River Gorge Between Portland and Hood River

The Five Best Hot Springs in Western Oregon

Everything You Needed to Know About Portland's Hottest Summer Hangout, The Dock

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