USFS aims to open bridge at Multnomah Falls by Memorial Day

Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls has been closed since January after a large rock fell and caused extensive damage (seen above) to a portion of the structure.

Diana Beterbide
Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls has been closed since January after a large rock fell and caused extensive damage (seen above) to a portion of the structure.

An iconic pedestrian bridge at Multnomah Falls that was damaged by a large falling rock earlier this year is expected to be restored by Memorial Day Weekend, according to the United States Forest Service.

The structure, Benson Bridge, has been closed since Jan. 9 when a large rock came tumbling down the basalt cliffs that frame Multnomah Falls and damaged a 4-foot-by-4-foot section of the bridge. The force of the rock blew a hole through the deck of the bridge and took out a section of railing before plummeting into Multnomah Creek below.

The bridge has been closed due to safety reasons since then, which has prevented some of the roughly 2 million people who visit the falls annually from crossing the creek to the popular Wahkeena to Multnomah Falls loop and the Horsetail Falls to Multnomah Falls loop trails located to the east.

Jennifer Kevil, public affairs officer for the USFS Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area office in Hood River, said her office is “on track” to have the damage repaired by the end of May. The bridge will then close again in September for what Kevil called “deferred maintenance” that will take roughly two weeks to a month to complete.

“We chose to do [the work] in two installments so as not to affect the summer tourist season,” she explained.

Physical work to repair the bridge will begin next month and will require replacing a portion of the concrete deck, the rebar that supports it, and the portion of railing that was knocked out by the rock. Kevil said the bridge, which was originally built in 1914, has to be repaired so that it will “look exactly like the current structure.”

In the fall, contractors will perform long-term maintenance, including removing the old sealant and resealing the bridge. During the work, a tent will be erected around the structure so that no debris will fall into the rushing creek below.

“We can’t have anything fall into the creek,” Kevil explained. “It’s a salmon-bearing stream.”

The entire project is estimated to cost approximately $300,000, which includes design work, and the second phase should be completed sometime in October.

Like other areas in the Gorge, Multnomah Falls has seen its fair share of dislodged rocks over the years — most notably in 1996, when a boulder the size of a school bus splashed down in the creek, disrupting a wedding party that was on the bridge at the time — and Kevil said that’s unlikely to change.

“There’s a high probability this will happen again,” she said. “There’s really not that much we can do about it.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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