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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.

Recreation and public access

Re-openings are beginning on some portions of the Santiam State Forest that were not burned in 2020's wildfires. Burned portions of the forest are still closed for safety reasons, as are some areas where repair and debris removal projects are still underway. View the open/closed status of recreation sites on the Santiam State Forest – this table will be updated regularly as statuses change.

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. Damage includes full tree mortality around many campsites, complete or partial sign loss, and vault toilet heat damage. Additionally, the ODF district office in Lyons was destroyed in the fire.

In closed areas, some of the recovery and restoration activities 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 or burned 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.

To address these needs, ODF has prepared a revised Implementation Plan for the North Cascade District, which covers the Santiam State Forest and reflects circumstances after the fires. This revised plan covers Fiscal Year 2021 through the end of Fiscal Year 23 (June 30, 2023) and provides a broad overview of strategies and activities with the aim of re-establishing a healthy, productive forest that provides the economic, environmental, and social benefits required by law on state forests.​​

Additionally, ODF held a 14-day comment period on a revised Annual Operations Plan for the North Casca​de District, which provides information on specific proposed post-fire timber sales for fiscal year 2021.​

As part of ODF's public engagement efforts, the agency accepted public comment for 42 days and hosted a virtual public presentation and forum on initial restoration plans on ​Dec. 8, 2020. View the public meeting​. Written comments received are linked below.​
​​​A 14-day comment period was held on specific planned operations in the Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Operations Plan for the North Cascade District. Written comments received are linked below.​

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).

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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