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Stunning Stewardship at Smith Rock

November 20, 2023

Smith Rock State Park is an outdoor recreation haven for hikers, climbers, mountain bikers, and beyond. Due to high visitation and the unique, fragile nature of the ecosystem, it is critical that the 12 trails throughout the park are well maintained. We at TKO feel very lucky to have served this special place throughout 2023, and we’re gearing up for another year!

Central and Eastern Oregon are two of TKO’s “reach areas” – places we are actively working to connect with communities, land managers, and volunteers to provide quality trail stewardship experiences. It has been incredibly exciting for us all to see our presence here grow, and we feel strongly that every event held is a success. And with our small but mighty Central Oregon volunteer base, we had a big impact. Throughout the year, TKO volunteers have focused their stewardship efforts on the River Trail, Canyon Trail, and the footbridge spanning the Crooked River. These efforts have been integral to natural area and trail recovery after winter weather, high river levels, and trampling of the Crooked River banks near the footbridge. By ensuring that these trails remain safe, accessible, and enjoyable for visitors, TKO helps to protect the surrounding areas from human-caused damage. 

A volunteer in a yellow hardhat uses a long handled tool to move large rocks creating a hole in the trail surface.

A TKO Volunteer Crew Leader arranges large rocks on trail at Smith Rock State Park.

In addition to Trail Parties, TKO has loved supporting the annual Smith Rock Spring Thing. In collaboration with the Smith Rock Group, over 200 volunteers descend on Smith Rock State Park to complete projects integral to the health and safety of visitors and ecosystems in the park. One dedicated TKO volunteer, Andrew B., tells us about his experience: “Volunteering at Smith Rock State Park for the annual Spring Thing was one of the greatest highlights of my time with the Trailkeepers of Oregon. Not only is it one of my top 3 favorite State Parks in Oregon, but it was incredible to see hundreds of volunteers coming together and contributing to trail maintenance. TKO was well represented with dozens of volunteers, and working with and learning from some of the more seasoned TKO leaders like Curtis and Nelson (Volunteer Crew Leaders), was a memory I won’t soon forget. We learned how to drain flooded trails near the riverbank properly, we diverted trails that were dangerously close to collapsing near the river’s edge, and we even built a new trail! Learning from the park rangers about the birds of prey nesting ON the cliffside at Smith Rock was an added thrill. It was my third time conquering Misery Ridge as well, and the encouragement from the other Trailkeepers while going up those switchbacks was greatly appreciated! Meeting new, like-minded people at the barbeque afterward solidified an action-packed, amazing day.” We are so grateful to be included in a legacy of 20 years of community care at Smith Rock, and can’t wait for next year!

A group of volunteers along a rocky trail overlooking a lake work to improve the trail surface.

Volunteers enjoy a day caring for the trails at Smith Rock State Park’s annual Spring Thing.

The community in and around this park is a powerful force for good, and with your support, TKO can continue to engage with them and grow our efforts in Central and Eastern Oregon! Throughout the week of November 20th to 26th, we’ll be celebrating volunteers’ efforts in this region and gathering contributions for next 2024 through our Legacy Builders fundraising campaign. Those who volunteer or contribute $150+ throughout the week will be entered to win an Atom Hoody from Arc’teryx (a $300 value!) 

TKO would like to thank Oregon State Parks, the U.S. Forest Service, and Travel Oregon, for their support of TKO’s service to stewarding Oregon’s trails.

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