PENDLETON, Ore. (April 4, 2022) — Forest officials have reopened access on just over one mile of Forest Service Road (FSR) 32 along the Umatilla River. The section of road that has reopened is from the Forest boundary near Corporation Guard Station (approximately eight miles east of Gibbon) to the bridge near Umatilla Forks Campground. With access to this portion of FSR 32 restored, Forest officials also plan to reopen a portion of Umatilla Forks Campground sometime in late spring or early summer.
Flood repairs on this portion of FSR 32 were completed in the fall of 2021, which included clearing debris slides on the roadway, restoring drainage features by cleaning or repairing damaged culverts and ditches, and removing danger trees along the road that were posing risks to public safety. Additionally, personnel cleared debris and removed danger trees at Umatilla Forks Campground to reopen nine campsites later this year. The remaining campsites will be closed until further flood damage repairs are completed.
Forest Service staff continue to work with Federal Highways to develop repair plans for the remaining flood-damaged sections of road upstream from Umatilla Forks Campground. The completed work is the initial phase of overall plans to restore access on FSR 32, which is a popular access route into the Umatilla River drainage on the Walla Walla Ranger District of the Umatilla National Forest. The road closure is being lifted as repairs are complete for each portion. Additional updates will be shared as work progresses.
The Umatilla watershed experienced substantial road and trail damage from the February 2020 region-wide flooding across northeast Oregon and southeast Washington. The flooding was the result of heavy snowfall followed by increased temperatures and significant rainfall. On the Umatilla National Forest, 14 roads and trail systems received extensive damage surrounding the Umatilla, South Fork Walla Walla and Little Tucannon rivers, requiring long-term temporary closures until critical repairs could be completed. Forest Service Road 32 received extensive damage, including approximately five areas where the road is completely gone. The Umatilla National Forest has been incrementally completing repairs on flood damaged roads across the Forest and officials have reopened most roads and trails.
The public is reminded that part of FSR 32 is still closed until further repairs are completed. The road closure begins at the bridge near Umatilla Forks Campground to where the road turns south away from waterways toward Ruckel Junction at the southern end of the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness. Detailed closure maps are available on the Forest website and at any Forest office. Closure signs and barriers are posted on the ground.
Umatilla National Forest officials urge forest visitors to plan ahead and contact their local ranger district prior to starting their trip. Forest conditions can be dynamic this time of year and likely to change throughout the day and week. Many places in the Blue Mountains have limited or no cell phone coverage. Forest visitors should always be prepared to spend the night in the forest with warm clothing, food, personal hygiene items and plenty of water. The public is encouraged to monitor the Umatilla National Forest Facebook page and website for updates on forest conditions and flood repair activities.