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Portion of Esplanade path might have to close due to high water – UPDATED


Current conditions.
(Photos: Portland Parks & Rec)

**The path has been closed as of Saturday 3/25. See below for update and statement from Portland Parks & Recreation bureau.

The City of Portland Parks and Recreation bureau says the floating portions of the Eastbank Esplanade could close if water levels in the Willamette River continue to climb.

Here’s the problem: The section of path just north and south of the Burnside Bridge is tethered to the riverbank. The ramps that lead down to the floating path are fixed. Therefore, as water rises, the path rises above the ramps, creating a sharp incline as seen in the photos above.

We’ve received several reports from readers about this in the past week and today we heard from parks spokesman Mark Ross. “During periods of very high water, when the river reaches approximately 17.5 feet, the ramps rise to an angle determined to be potentially unsafe for bikes (and possibly pedestrians),” he wrote via email.

Ross said no decisions have been made at this time, but the City is keeping a close eye on the situation. Here’s more from Ross:

“For now, staff are monitoring the ramps to determine if a closure is needed. The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) is forecasting an average 17.05” Willamette river through the weekend. Should that prediction increase over the next day and a half, PP&R staff will install fence gates at the north and south ends of the floating section gangways so staff can close the section if needed before or during the weekend. I was down there this morning (photos) and riding up and down the ramps was noticable, but I was fine while riding slow. We urge cyclists and people on foot to be very careful and go extra slow, both for this steep incline and for the normal congestion on the riverfront trails.”

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NOAA water level projections. Parks will close the path if the level reaches 17.5 feet.

You can track the current NOAA projections here.

If you recall, Parks was forced to close the path in May 2011 for nearly two weeks after major storms and snowmelt combined to raise the water level to nearly 18-feet. That was the first time such a measure had to be taken since the Esplanade opened in 2001.

Here’s how it looked in 2011:

In 2011 Parks waited until the water was at 16-feet before re-opening the path.

If you ride this part of the path, let us know how it looks and we’ll keep you posted on any closures.

UPDATE, 3/25: The Parks bureau has closed the path for “an undetermined length of time”. Here’s the statement:

Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) is temporarily closing the floating portion of the Eastbank Esplanade due to extremely high Willamette River water levels. PP&R has been carefully monitoring this section of the popular riverside trail, located on the east side of the Willamette, over the past few days. During periods of very high water, when the river reaches approximately 17.5 feet, the ramps rise to an angle determined to be potentially unsafe for people on bikes, on foot, and for those using mobility devices. This situation has occurred in the past during rare, extremely high river elevations (most recently in May of 2011).

The floating section of the Esplanade is tethered to the solid riverbank between the Steel Bridge to the north and past the Burnside Bridge to the south. Staff are installing warning signs (attached) to notify cyclists, runners and walkers. Signs will be located on the Esplanade, both ahead of the impacted areas and at the points of closure.

The closure will remain in effect for an undetermined length of time – until river conditions allow for safe travel on the impacted section of walkway. Staff are monitoring conditions regularly and will reopen the area as soon as it is determined to be safe. Commuters, walkers, cyclists, etc., should use street alternatives.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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