After a nearly five-month closure due to COVID-19, Multnomah Falls is now back open to the public.
But a visit to one of the state's top tourist attractions will require extra precautions likely to result in long lines.
Starting today, the U.S. Forest Service is allowing limited access to the waterfall as part of a two-phase plan meant to help keep the number of visitors down and moving along a one-way path while on the property.
During phase one, 300 people at a time will be let in on a first-come, first-served basis from 9 am to 6 pm. The viewing platform and historic Multnomah Falls Lodge will be open, but the Benson Bridge at the base of the falls as well as the loop trail to Wahkeena Falls are going to remain off limits. When the number of visitors is at capacity, people will be corralled in a "queuing area" near the pedestrian bridge from the I-84 parking lot.
In the coming weeks, the recreation site will transition to phase two, which includes a ticketing system in which visitors must reserve a time slot online at least one day in advance.
To ensure the safety of everyone at the falls, a check-in station has been placed at the entrance and there are barriers throughout the property to encourage people to follow the designated direction of foot traffic. Face coverings are required for all staff and visitors over the age of 5. Those masks can be removed when eating or drinking, which means concessions are open but food is takeout only and must be eaten on the plaza. Restrooms remain closed, but porta-potties have been stationed in the parking lot.
The Oregon Department of Transportation also reopened the I-84 parking lot and Historic Columbia River Highway between Bridal Veil Falls and Ainsworth State Park today, but there are new guidelines for anyone making the trip out to the Gorge. You cannot park along the highway, which typically sees its shoulders jammed with vehicles this time of year. Additionally, if the I-84 lot's 186 spaces are filled and the crossing arms come down, people are asked to return to the falls another time. The westbound access point to parking is still blocked off to prevent freeway backups.
Don't plan on catching the Columbia Gorge Express bus to Multnomah Falls—at least not during phase one. When the permit system is in place, the shuttle will resume service at that stop.