Smith Rock State Park is getting a new bridge, but installing it will mean losing access to some of the most iconic parts of the park during July and August.
The bridge, which crosses the Crooked River, provides access to some of the most popular hiking and climbing spots in the park, including Misery Ridge and Monkey Face, and while construction is ongoing, there will be no temporary crossing.
The construction will most likely take place between July 1 and Aug. 15, but the exact dates are unclear because it will depend on river flows and raptor nesting, both of which could shift dates construction is possible.
“The goal is to get it finished in two weeks but it may take up to four weeks, it’ll just depend a few different factors,” Smith Rock park manager Matt Davey said. “Overall, it should have a pretty limited impact since July and August are actually two of our least-visited months because of how hot it is.
“We know that this closure will have an impact on our park users, but our current footbridge must be replaced.”
While the bridge is being replaced, Davey said park officials will discourage people from using the other side. Plenty of hiking and climbing areas that don’t require crossing the bridge will still be easily accessible, he said.
Davey said park officials are worried about the ecological impact on the river if lots of people decided to attempt to cross it, along with difficulty in responding to emergencies in an often hazardous part of the park.
“We’re starting with an educational framework to keep people from going to the other side,” he said. “A rescue, which is common in the Misery Ridge area in summer, would become very difficult over there without a bridge in place.”
He said completely closing that side of the park would be difficult and that there are back ways to come in.
“We’re not planning to post rangers and write tickets for going back there, but we’ll really be promoting the other side and we’re just asking people to leave that area alone for a few weeks,” Davey said.
He noted that trails such as Rim Rock Trail, Homestead Trail, Canyon Trail and North Point loop will remain easily accessible. In addition, climbing areas that will be easily accessible during construction include: North Point area, Rope-de-Dope boulder and The Lower Gorge.
The old bridge was built nearly 50 years ago and reconstructed about 30 years ago, a news release said. The new bridge will measure 8 feet wide, about 2 feet wider than the current bridge, and better accommodate visitors and first responders during the park’s frequent rescue operations, a news release said.
Trails that will remain easily accessible during closure include: Rim Rock Trail, Homestead Trail, Rope-de-Dope Trail, Canyon Trail and North Point loop.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors reporter in Oregon for 15 years and is host of the Explore Oregon Podcast. To support his work, subscribe to the Statesman Journal. Urness is the author of “Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon” and “Hiking Southern Oregon.” He can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or 503-399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.