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Restoring the Santiam State Forest

About the Santiam State Forest recovery

Over 16,000 acres of the Santiam State Forest was damaged in 2020's Labor Day fires. The fires took an extensive toll on popular recreation sites, roads, and natural resources. Read on to learn what happened in the 2020 fires, ODF's plans for recovery and restoration, and opportunities to get involved. Through this interactive map, you can find information on burn severity throughout the Santiam State Forest as well as post-fire imagery, how parcels of state forestland are classified, stand ages pre-fire, aquatics and more. View the map in full screen (Microsoft Edge browser not recommended).

Upcoming public comment opportunity

ODF is hosting a virtual public presentation at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27, to learn more about plans for recovery and restoration in the vicinity of the Shellburg Falls Recreation Area in the Santiam State Forest due to impacts from the 2020 Labor Day fires. See “Forest Planning & Public Engagement" below for more information.

Recreation access & safety after fire

Most large blocks of un-burned state forestland are open, and some burned areas are now open where hazards have been mitigated and infrastructure repaired or replaced. View the open/closed status of recreation sites on the Santiam State Forest – this table will be updated regularly as statuses change.

Forest visitors should take extra precautions when they are in burned areas. While extensive road and trail repair has taken place prior to re-opening areas, hazards left behind by the fire may still remain.

  • The most hazardous trees were removed from alongside roads. Some trees that were not cut will die in the coming months and years and may eventually fall. This can result in blocked trails or roads. Dead and damaged trees are also more likely to fall due to high winds.
  • Holes left behind by burned stumps and roots may not be evident, particularly off of trails
  • Flash floods and debris flows may be more common because of reduced plant cover, even in areas where flowers and other underbrush have returned.Burned trail sign for Shellburg Falls

Some of the Santiam's most popular destinations were severely damaged, including Shellburg Falls, Rocky Top/Niagara area, and the Rhody Lake/High Lakes areas. These areas remain closed. Damage includes full tree mortality around many campsites, complete or partial sign loss, and vault toilet heat damage. 

Recovery and restoration activities continue in closed areas. These include re-establishing and repairing trails, replacing infrastructure like signs and bridges, removing hazard trees, and post-fire timber harvesting in some areas.

No matter where you go, outdoor activity comes with some level of risk. Here are some safety tips:

  • Do not enter closed areas.
  • Use extra caution when driving on single-lane gravel roads in the forest. Active recovery and logging operations are underway. Keep to the right and anticipate oncoming traffic such as trucks, heavy equipment, and other vehicles.
  • Many forest roads cross multiple ownerships, and levels of road maintenance can vary accordingly.
  • Respect all land closures, public and private.

Santiam State Forest recreation site status

Recovery and restoration

ODF's strategy to restore the Santiam State Forest strives to re-establish a healthy, working forest through a range of reforestation methods. This process also includes recovery timber sales, road repair, restoring recreational amenities, and removing hazardous trees that pose a danger to the public.

ODF is hosting a virtual public presentation at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27, to learn more about plans for recovery and restoration in the vicinity of the Shellburg Falls Recreation Area in the Santiam State Forest due to impacts from the 2020 Labor Day fires. In addition to this public presentation, a public comment period will be held in early November.

​Meeting link:

Call-in information:

  • Dial 669-900-6833
  • Meeting ID: 962 2570 5653

Components of this project include:

  • Robust protections for scenic areas and along waterways
  • Ongoing repair and improvements to trails and recreational infrastructure
  • Selective removal of dangerous trees alongside roadways and recreation areas
  • A 14-acre post-fire timber harvest and replanting outside the viewshed of Shellburg Falls
  • Underplanting in some no-harvest areas that are not showing significant signs of natural re-generation after the fires
  • Identifying opportunities for education and interpretation in post-fire environments
  • Post-fire environmental monitoring

An ODF staff presentation to the State Forests Advisory Committee was given on Sept. 16, 2021, and can be viewed on YouTube.

Phase 1 of the Fiscal Year 2022 North Cascade District Annual Operations Plan was approved after a 30-day public comment period. A draft of Phase 2 will be available in late October, with public comment in November.

More information:

About the fires

Managed by the Oregon Department of Forestry, the 47,000+ acre Santiam State Forest saw extensive damage in the Beachie Creek Fire of 2020. See a map of the Santiam State Forest. The Beachie Creek Fire was slowly growing in a remote, steep and rugged portion of U.S. Forest Service land in the Opal Creek Wilderness. Historic drought conditions exacerbated by climate change, combined with high temperatures and low humidity, created conditions for fire to spread rapidly. A historic wind event on Sept. 7, 2020 caused the fire to grow from about 500 acres to over 130,000 acres in a 24-hour span. Communities throughout the Santiam Canyon were evacuated. The fire claimed five lives, destroyed 470 homes as well as numerous businesses, decimated private and public forestland, and altered the Santiam Canyon for decades to come. 

Firefighter walking through the burned forest

About 16,600 acres were damaged in the fire, and 24,700 acres were within the fire perimeter. But the fire burned in a mosaic pattern across the landscape with varying intensity. ODF-managed lands are working forests that, by law, must provide economic, social and environmental benefits to Oregonians. As part of this mission, ODF forests are managed for fire resiliency, including thinning activities that can help slow intensity and spread of fire. Several large ODF-managed tracts within the fire perimeter showed low-intensity burns, and it's possible that this management strategy contributed to reduced impact in these areas. Even so, many areas saw high or extreme fire intensity that killed most trees on the landscape and caused extensive damage to roads, trails and other infrastructure.

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