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A Vision for Oregon’s River Valleys

November 27, 2023

Throughout 2023 TKO has been lucky to participate in some outstanding trail projects in the Willamette and Umpqua River Valleys. These projects, critical to maintaining and reopening trails,  allowed volunteers to grow their trail construction skills in some of Oregon’s most beautiful natural areas!

TKO’s efforts to revitalize Shellburg Falls have been a long time in the making. The 2020 Beachie Creek Fire severely impacted 16,000 acres of the Santiam State Forest, including the area around Shellburg Falls. In 2021, three TKO interns performed initial assessments of wildfire damage leading to a rapid response clearing of debris and repairing slides. Since then, TKO volunteers have been slowly but surely restoring and improving the trails. In 2023, volunteer efforts expanded to include the installation of two 30-foot bridges to replace those destroyed in the fire. It has required years of service to get the area to where it is now, and it will need many more to rehabilitate the fragile, reemerging forest ecosystem.

Volunteers work together to place the initial boards for a bridge across a ravine.

TKO volunteers begin construction of the August Mountain Trail bridge.

Three volunteers sit on a fully decked August Mountain Trail bridge.

Volunteers enjoy a fully decked August Mountain Trail bridge.











Just a few miles away at Silver Falls State Park, TKO volunteers are keeping the beat of trail stewardship going strong with long-time Volunteer Crew Leader Art Mills at the helm. Beginning in 2019, TKO trail crews have worked with State Parks to construct the brand new North Rim Trail that opened in the summer of 2023. The trail offers a short, accessible path to a new overlook of North Falls. The years of effort have clearly paid off as the new trail and overlook have been an absolute hit with Silver Falls visitors! While reminiscing on his start with TKO and the early days of the North Rim Trail project, Art says “Since working with TKO I’ve started noticing a lot more about trails. I’ve lived here for 30 years and it completely changed how I see the park. On hikes I’d done for decades, I would now say ‘oh, that spot needs drainage improvements’ or similar. It’s been a great way to give back and support the parks.” 

Though the effort on the North Rim Trail needed a lot of hours, regular maintenance was still needed elsewhere in the park. In 2023, TKO volunteers completed logouts on the Buck Mountain Trail, decommissioned user trails, installed numerous gabions, and kept vegetation from taking over trails. These projects have been made great by our wonderful partners at Oregon State Parks, who also reiterate the importance of volunteer trail crews. Trails Ranger John remembers a moment with TKO from many years ago: “When I moved from Milo McIver State Park down to Silver Falls, I reached out to Art and said ‘Art, you guys [TKO] should come down here,’ and now I know that was a great move. We’ve got 48 miles of trails in this park and I couldn’t do it without TKO volunteers.”

A group of volunteers work to build a rock wall along a trail.

TKO volunteers and a Youth Conservation Corps group build a rock wall on the Winter Falls Trail at Silver Falls.

A large group gathers around a trail sign at Silver Falls State Park.

Volunteers celebrate the opening of the new North Rim Trail at Silver Falls.










In a newer pursuit, TKO had an exciting opportunity to begin partnering with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on the Umpqua River Trail to begin rebuilding structures that were damaged or destroyed during the 2022 Archie Creek Fire. TKO brought the instructors, the BLM provided the materials, and community members from the region, including a youth crew from Phoenix Charter School in Roseburg, came together during four hot days in June 2023 to put it all together. This multi-day adventure resulted in two brand new 8 foot bridge and 21 foot bridges! 

TKO volunteers pose under a shade canopy on a newly constructed 8 foot bridge.

TKO volunteers with the newly constructed 8-foot bridge on the Umpqua River Trail.

TKO volunteers pose on the newly constructed 21 foot bridge over a ravine on the Umpqua River Trail.

Volunteers stand on the newly constructed 21-foot bridge on the Umpqua River Trail.











TKO’s partnership with the BLM doesn’t end there! With BLM support, TKO has helped volunteer partners across Oregon’s federal lands with training and stewardship initiatives. This year, TKO saw program staff coordinated with Team Dirt  – a nonprofit mountain bike partner in Alsea Falls – to host a saw certification for their members to be prepared for taking care of down trees and debris in the Alsea Falls trails systems. To create a truly healthy and sustainable system of trails across Oregon, everyone needs to be involved in giving back to our public lands, and this collaboration with Team Dirt shows how trail lovers of all kind can do just that.

Though the challenges of the Willamette Valley and Umpqua Valley may differ, solutions begin the same way – with dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers. TKO is eager to continue, and expand upon, our efforts in these special places and we need your help to do it. Get involved with our Legacy Builders campaign here this week to show your support for trails! For this week only, the first 50 donors will get a 20% off pass to Cotopaxi and be entered to win raffle prizes from our friends at Cotopaxi

TKO would like to thank Oregon State Parks, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and Travel Oregon for their support of TKO’s service in stewarding Oregon’s trails. And this week, special thanks go out to our media partner for his help in getting communities involved in giving back to trails. Check him out on Instagram at @andrewtodd.media.

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