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A Brush Fire Has Forced the Evacuation of Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Aug 24, 2023Aug 24, 2023

Right before the busy Labor Day weekend camping rush, Oregon State Parks has evacuated one of its sites due to a fast-moving brush fire.

Just after 2 pm on Tuesday, Aug. 29, the agency reported on its social media accounts that it abruptly closed Cottonwood Canyon State Park and was in the process of clearing out visitors. Approximately 30 minutes later, Oregon State Parks updated its post to report that it had vacated the property, which is about 43 miles southeast of The Dalles.

The blaze appears to be so new (and likely not large enough), it has not been named. However, the National Interagency Fire Center is now showing what it describes as “hot spots” near Cottonwood Canyon on its interactive tracking map.

The Sherman County Sheriff’s Office also took to social media to alert area residents about the fire, which it says is located about 1 mile south of the park. The agency added that it was burning land on both sides of the John Day River and “growing rapidly.” Highway 206, which leads to Cottonwood Canyon, is closed to all traffic from Wasco to Condon in Eastern Oregon, according to TripCheck.

Cottonwood Canyon Fire Photo courtesy of Sherman County Sheriff's Office.

Oregon State Parks is in the process of informing campers with upcoming reservations that the park will remain closed and fees are going to be refunded. At this point, there is no estimate on when the fire will be brought under control or when Cottonwood Canyon might reopen.

The latest flare-up is a reminder to anyone planning to recreate in the great outdoors this holiday weekend (the unofficial end to summer) that most of the state is either abnormally dry or in some level of drought—despite the cooler temperatures and precipitation that has moved into the metro area this week.

Campfires are currently banned at dozens of state parks—even inside many along the Oregon Coast. That includes those started by wood, charcoal, briquettes, pellets as well as tiki torches. However, campers can use portable cooking stoves, fire rings and lanterns powered by liquefied fuel with a shut-off valve. However, those sleeping in the backcountry are only allowed to use those bottle-fed devices when prepping food—not for warmth. You can check to see if a location you’re planning to stay at is affected by the restrictions by visiting the Oregon State Parks website.