Shellburg Falls reopens after 2020 fires 

A shot of Shellburg Falls, located in the Santiam State Forest which was decimated by the 2020 Labor Day wildfires Photo courtesy of


A popular recreation section of the Santiam State Forest, Shellburg Falls, reopened May 17, after being closed for several years in the aftermath of the 2020 Labor Day wildfires. 

“It’s almost unbelievable how wildfire can impact the landscape,” Joe Offer, Oregon Department of Forestry’s (ODF) recreation manager said. 

“At Shellburg, we lost bridges, wooden signs and even the timbers on the ground used for steps burned up. It shows how wildfire burns at different rates, different severity and skips around the landscape.” 

More than 75% of trees in the area were burned or partially burned, according to the ODF. Because of this, it became challenging for the department to manage the state forest and provide economic, environmental and social benefits to Oregonians. 

One of the biggest issues the ODF faced was the low amount of funding or positions to address the severe loss of recreation infrastructure. 

“We have 1.5 full time recreation positions for the entire Santiam State Forest,” Offer said. “We also did not get any additional funds to replace lost infrastructure.” 

Major changes to the falls area includes the closure of the old trailhead and the conversion of a small campground into the new trailhead. 

Currently, there are two trails to the falls. The first is Upper Shellburg Falls Trail, an approximately 1.5 mile round trip. The trail gives hikers a view from above or parallel to the falls. 

The second is the Lower Shellburg Falls Trail which is four miles round trip and ends up at the base of the falls. 

The other big change is that the trail no longer goes behind the falls as well as having barriers and signs warning people not to go behind the falls. 

In addition to adding multiple trails to the falls, there are also hiking and mountain biking trails in the newly opened area for people to explore. 

“Our hope is people see this as an outdoor destination and not just one trail,” Offer said. “The falls are beautiful, but the other area trails will be interesting for people to see especially as the different impacted areas of the forest recover from those 2020 fires.” 

In addition to Shellburg, all other campgrounds in the Clatsop, Santiam and Tillamook State Forests will open for the season. 

To see a complete list, go to ODF’s website. 

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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