As we head into the weekend and people search for ways to keep their minds and bodies occupied after days of hunkering down, the U.S. Forest Service has a very simple message for everybody: Stay out of the Gorge.
Even though day-use sites, parks and trailheads remain closed due to the coronavirus outbreak—and many have been barricaded to prevent entry—visitors have still flooded public lands. Last weekend alone, the Forest Service says thousands flocked to the Columbia River Gorge.
To prevent another onslaught, more than a dozen federal, state and local agencies have launched a public information campaign to encourage outdoor enthusiasts to "do the right thing" and follow orders to avoid all travel.
"Now's the time for local hikers to do the right thing, give Gorge trails a break, and stay home," said Kevin Gorman, executive director of Friends of the Columbia Gorge, in a statement. "We need to support our first responders who work hard to keep us safe on the trails 365 days a year, 24/7. Now, more than ever, they need our help so they can stay safe. We can help do our part by observing trail closures in the Gorge."
The Forest Service stressed that people should not try to get around temporary barriers by bushwhacking their own trails—the Gorge's steep slopes, drop-offs and rock falls pose a danger to would-be hikers, potentially straining already-busy medical facilities.
Law enforcement agencies will step up patrols in the area looking for anyone violating the closures.