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Restoring the Santiam State Forest

About the Santiam State Forest recovery

Over 16,000 acres of the Santiam State Forest were 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).

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. Most of 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.

After the 2020 Labor Day fires, ODF immediately began planning forest recovery and restoration. To view maps of harvest areas, post-fire imagery, fire severity, and other information on activities for fiscal year 2022, visit the Santiam Restoration web map.

Due to the extensive damage, the Implementation Plan for the North Cascade District was revised to reflect post-fire conditions and provide a roadmap forward for the next several years. Implementation Plans describe in detail how management strategies from the agency's Forest Management Plan will be applied in a particular district.

The current year Annual Operations Plans for the district were issued in two phases. Phases 1 and 2 of the North Cascade Annual Operations Plan were approved after separate public comment periods.

Annual Operations Plans

Phase 1 public engagement

Phase 2 public engagement

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.