New Multnomah Falls parking lot gate activated

New Multnomah Falls parking lot gate activated »Play Video
File photo of Multnomah Falls by Shannon L. Cheesman, KATU.com Producer/Reporter.

A new gate will start opening and closing on Saturday in front of the parking lot for Multnomah Falls.

ODOT has activated a gate at Exit 31 from eastbound Interstate 84 to Multnomah Falls that will close when the parking lot accessible from the Interstate is full. The purpose of the gate is to prevent dangerous backups onto the freeway travel lanes.

The parking lot off the Interstate has 150 spaces, while the lot accessible from the historic highway has 120, according to ODOT officials.

The gate will have sensors to automatically count cars entering and exiting the interstate ramps from Exit 31.

When there are only 15 spaces remaining, the gate will automatically close. It will open again when there are 30 empty spaces, according to officials.

On sunny weekends in the Columbia River Gorge, the number of visitors increases significantly at Multnomah Falls, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state.

The parking lot exceeds capacity several times a year, especially on weekends, and cars waiting for parking spaces sometimes back up onto the eastbound I-84 travel lanes, creating a safety hazard.

The gate is accompanied by signs announcing the closure. In addition, two large message boards will notify eastbound motorists when the parking lot is closed, one at Benson State Park approximately one mile west of Multnomah Falls and the other just before the exit to the falls.

In the weeks ahead, several nearby highway variable message signs will also automatically display a message announcing that the parking lot is closed. The message will also be available at TripCheck.com.

When the gate is closed, visitors will need to stay on I-84 and return to Multnomah Falls when the lot has reopened. Visitor counts are highest in the middle of the day while counts are less in the early morning or late afternoon.

A small parking lot on the Historic Columbia River Highway is often full on busy days.

ODOT is continuing to study ways to increase the parking capacity at Multnomah Falls and other popular Gorge attractions.