One summer after a timed-permit system limited the number of drivers allowed along the Historic Columbia River Highway’s “Waterfall Corridor,” in the Columbia River Gorge, the maligned program is being removed due to a lack of dedicated funding.
Last year cars commuting along the popular roadway, with access to many of the sights in the Gorge, had to purchase a ticket online ahead of time. The goal was to reduce congestion and improve safety for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, which partner organizations, like the Oregon Department of Transportation and U.S. Forest Service, said was a success.
But no dedicated funding source was secured for the permit program, nor could staff be found to work the entry points.
“We learned a lot in 2022 about visitor practices and that information will help us as we plan for the future,” said Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann. “Multnomah County, ODOT, Oregon State Parks, the Forest Service, and all our partners are continuing to look for ways we can reduce congestion and improve the visitor experience to this wonderful treasure.”
The new plan is to redouble efforts in reducing the crush of visitors to Multnomah Falls, which has long been the problem child of the “Waterfall Corridor.” Drivers along both Interstate 84 and the Historic Highway have caused major traffic jams as they await spots to open in the limited parking lots. That has led to both delays for commuters and dangerous situations as people walked along the speedy roadways to see the waterfall.
Timed-use system focused on the Multnomah Falls parking lot this summer is the latest endeavor to improve the situation. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, May 26, through Monday, Sept. 4, permits will be required for each vehicle accessing the lot from Interstate 84 Exit 31.
The permits will cost $2, and can be bought online at recreation.gov up to two weeks in advance of your visit. A limited number will also be available for pickup without a fee at the Gateway to the Gorge Visitor Center in Troutdale and the Cascade Locks Historical Museum.
In addition there will be a flagger at the Multnomah Falls crosswalk, as well as a private concessionaire to manage the small Historic Highway lot, which will be first-come, first-serve. That lot is limited, including six ADA spots. If it is full, vehicles will not be allowed to stop or wait for an open space — a welcome practice for anyone who has been stuck in the hour-plus jam.
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Christopher Keizur is a reporter based in Gresham, Ore.