Willamette Valley fire travel information updated September 20, 2021

The wildfires of September 2020 had a devastating impact on communities throughout the Santiam Canyon and Willamette Valley. We’re eternally grateful for the front-line responders, and our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy. Nearly a year later, many attractions remain closed as communities rebuild from the horrific wildfires.

With summer 2021 now in full swing, we wanted to offer updates on the latest wildfire news to help you understand the latest conditions and provide everything you need to make up-to-the-minute travel decisions. Here are the latest news and resources to help make the most of your trip:

2021 Wildfire Updates and News

Middle Fork Complex Fires: As of September 20, 2021, several fires (collectively known as the Middle Fork Complex Fires) are burning near Oakridge. As such, a Facebook page has been created to offer updates and alerts about the fires, and official closure orders are in place for numerous roads, campgrounds, trails, and other recreation sites in the West Cascades. Learn more about what’s closed near Oakridge while the Middle Fork Complex Fires continue to burn.

Level 2 (Be Set) evacuation notices have also been issued for the area north of Oakridge and Westfir. (View a more detailed evacuation map here.) Those in the vicinity should be aware of the danger in the area and prepare for possible evacuations. Additional information is available on the Willamette National Forest Facebook page, as well as on the official Knoll Fire Facebook page.

And on August 19, 2021, the Willamette National Forest announced a long-term closure on a four-mile section of the McKenzie River Trail due to the Knoll Fire; the closure extends from the Blue Pool/Tamolitch Falls trailhead south to Deer Creek and will remain in place until the summer of 2022 (and possibly longer). Access to Blue Pool/Tamolitch Falls from the designated trailhead is not impacted at this time. Learn more about the closure from the Willamette National Forest.

Bruler Fire: In July 2021, the Bruler Fire began in the Willamette National Forest approximately eight miles south of Detroit Lake. Local firefighters and aircraft responded quickly to help contain the blaze, which remains active as of this writing. As of August 3, 2021, it had reached 75% containment.

While the blaze continues burning, certain recreation closures remain in place. Before visiting the impacted area, follow the Willamette National Forest on Facebook for the most up-to-date news.

Road Closures and Alerts

Travelers should expect delays throughout the West Cascades and Cascade Range. Here’s a look at what to expect as you plan your upcoming travels.

Highway 22: Travelers should expect delays along Highway 22 as crews continue to clean debris and work to ensure safety of drivers and residents. Many businesses were damaged or destroyed in the fires; with limited services in the Santiam Canyon area, be sure to fill your gas tank, and pack plenty of water, food, and other supplies. Learn more about outdoor recreation in the Santiam Canyon area and how to make the most of your next visit.

Oregon Route 126: Travelers should expect delays along Oregon Route 126 (between milepost 28 and milepost 37.50) as crews clean the road and remove debris following the Holiday Farm Fire. At this time, travelers are cautioned against visiting to survey the area’s fire damage; landslides and downed trees have created dangerous conditions for visitors, and frontline responders are working tirelessly to improve safety in the area.

Oregon Route 224: The Riverside Fire has closed Oregon Route 224 between milepost 31 and milepost 50 in the Mt. Hood National Forest.

Travelers crossing the Cascade Range should take Highway 26 (on Mount Hood), Highway 20 (for Santiam Pass), or Highway 58 (for Willamette Pass). Visit TripCheck.com for up-to-the-minute travel alerts, maps, webcams, closure information, and other advisories.

Outdoor Recreation Closures

Several outdoor recreation areas remain closed as crews fight fires and continue clean-up work.

Mt. Hood National Forest: Portions of the Mt. Hood National Forest have reopened for limited public use. On the west side of the forest, areas north of Highway 26 have reopened; areas south of Highway 26—including the Clackamas River Ranger District and Pacific Crest Trail—largely remain closed, due to widespread damage, downed trees, debris flows, and the ongoing Riverside Fire. Visit the Mt. Hood National Forest website for the latest on what’s open.

Willamette National Forest: Day-use areas, trails, trailheads, boat ramps, and more outside the fire closure area have reopened in the Willamette National Forest. Campgrounds remain closed at this time. Keep in mind that trails have not been surveyed, so debris slides, downed trees, and other obstacles may impede hikes. Visit the Willamette National Forest website for the latest on what’s opened.

Oregon State Parks: Several Oregon State Parks remain closed due to the wildfires. Visit the Oregon State Parks website for park closure information, restrictions, and other alerts. 

Bureau of Land Management (BLM): Some BLM lands in Oregon remain closed due to the Riverside and Beachie Creek fires. Visit the BLM website for the latest updates.

County parks: Several county parks throughout the Willamette Valley remain closed; visit Marion County ParksLinn County Parks, and Lane County Parks for the latest on county-park closures.

McKenzie River: Vast stretches of forest burned along the McKenzie River in the Holiday Farm Fire; Travel Lane County has put together a Google Map showing recreation sites along the river (and along OR-126)—and whether they’re open or closed at this time.

(All wildfire photos courtesy of Oregon Department of Transportation / Flickr)

Community Support and Assistance

Even though the region’s wildfires have been contained, it’s a long road to recovery for displaced residents, small-business owners, and others impacted by the natural disaster. Here are a few ways to help those in need.

Santiam Canyon Fire

The Mid-Valley Wildfire Relief Fund (from United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley) offers support for those impacted in the Santiam Canyon area.

Breitenbush Hot Springs suffered devastating losses in the Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires—numerous buildings were completely destroyed—and is accepting donations to help rebuild.

Santiam Hospital has also set up a Santiam Canyon Wildfire Relief Fund to help those who were impacted by fires in the area.

Holiday Farm Fire

In Lane County, where the Holiday Farm Fire had devastating effects, a GoFundMe drive has been created to help employees of the McKenzie River Mountain Resort (which was burned in the fires). United Way of Lane County has also started a Wildfire Response Fund to support the unmet needs of individuals and families most impacted by the Holiday Farm Fire.

Broad Relief Efforts

Cascade Volunteers is the nonprofit partner of the Willamette National Forest; the group coordinates volunteers and directly invests in the forest’s recreational facilities—including the Santiam and McKenzie districts, both battered by wildfires. Funds are going toward post-fire restoration efforts.

The Red Cross Cascades Region is getting emergency financial assistance into the hands of residents whose homes were burned or lost in the wildfires—and is still accepting donations.

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation is accepting donations to support wildland firefighters and their families.