Hiker Dies After Falling From Trail in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, Officials Say

    by Sidney Hunt
    Published: May 21, 2024 (4 weeks ago)

    A tragic accident in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge has claimed the life of a hiker, who fell from a popular trail, according to officials. The incident occurred on Sunday afternoon, prompting a swift response from emergency services, though, unfortunately, they were unable to save the victim.

    The hiker, identified as 28-year-old Sarah Thompson from Portland, was trekking along the Eagle Creek Trail, a renowned path known for its stunning waterfalls and challenging terrain. According to witnesses, Thompson was navigating a narrow section of the trail near Punchbowl Falls when she lost her footing and plunged approximately 80 feet into the rocky gorge below.

    Other hikers immediately called 911, and rescue teams from the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, along with local fire departments and search and rescue volunteers, were dispatched to the scene. Despite the rapid response, the difficult terrain and steep cliffs hampered the rescue efforts. By the time rescuers reached Thompson, she had succumbed to her injuries.

    “This is a heartbreaking incident,” said Sheriff Matt English. “The Columbia River Gorge is a beautiful but inherently risky area for hikers. Our deepest condolences go out to Sarah’s family and friends during this incredibly difficult time.”

    The Eagle Creek Trail, part of the larger Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, is known for its breathtaking views and waterfalls but also for its perilous stretches where trails narrow and drop-offs are steep. The trail, which reopened last year after being closed due to a wildfire in 2017, has seen an influx of visitors eager to explore its natural beauty.

    Officials are urging hikers to exercise extreme caution when traversing these paths, especially as the spring season brings more visitors. “Always stay on marked trails, wear appropriate footwear, and be mindful of the weather conditions,” advised Deputy Sheriff Mark White. “Even experienced hikers need to be vigilant. One misstep can have tragic consequences.”

    Thompson, an avid outdoor enthusiast, was well-regarded in her community. Friends described her as adventurous and passionate about nature. “Sarah loved hiking and being outdoors,” said her friend and hiking companion, Emily Richards. “She was always careful and aware of her surroundings, which makes this even more tragic. It’s a huge loss for all of us who knew and loved her.”

    In light of this incident, the Forest Service and local authorities are reviewing safety measures and considering additional signage or barriers in particularly hazardous areas of the trail. They also plan to increase outreach efforts to educate the public on the risks associated with hiking in the gorge.

    The death of Sarah Thompson serves as a somber reminder of the potential dangers that come with exploring nature’s most beautiful yet unforgiving landscapes. As investigations continue, the community mourns the loss of a vibrant young woman whose love for the outdoors was cut short in a devastating accident.