Clean Your Boots to Protect the Columbia Gorge

Artwork by our talented partner, Jon Wagner, of East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District.

By: Cathy McQueeney (Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District)

Clean your boots when you hike. And your sneakers, sandals, and flip-flops too. Give them a quick scrub before and after you hike to prevent the spread of invasive weeds.

Summer is here and that means local nature enthusiasts and visitors from around the world are out in force, visiting the many wonderful parks and recreation areas for which the Columbia River Gorge is so famous. Native plants and native wildlife definitely make our excursions especially nice, but did you know that these unique areas can be easily spoiled? Contamination by invasive weeds can destroy precious habitat and limit resources that native pollinators, song birds, fish, and other wildlife need to survive.

This study found an estimated annual loss of almost $83.5 million in personal income to Oregon’s economy from just 25 selected weed species. These costs are estimated to balloon to $1.8 billion if invasive weeds are left untreated. We all pay the bill for invasion of weed species through increased food costs, higher taxes, and decreased property values.

Boot brush station at the Weldon Wagon Trail in Klickitat County, Washington. (Credit: Marty Hudson)

Clean Your Boots Before and After You Hike

You can help control invasive weeds in our area by making one simple commitment — Clean your boots before and after you hike!  Remove seeds from your socks and boots (check laces and boot tread) and check your children or pets who hike with you for seeds as well. Many trailheads in the Columbia Gorge are equipped with a handy boot brush station for public use. If you do not have access to a boot brush station, we recommend carrying any stiff-bristled brush to remove persistent seeds on your clothing, shoes, and other items.

This simple step can help prevent the spread of invasive weeds into our parks and recreational areas, keeping our native habitats healthy. Share this important tip with friends, family, and fellow hikers!

What Else Can I Do?

While the best way to protect our natural areas is to not introduce invasive weeds at all, the next best thing is to eliminate them just as soon as they are detected. This approach is called Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR). You can help by learning to identify new invasive weeds in our area by taking a look at this Columbia Gorge Worst Weeds of the Gorge booklet.

Should you identify one of these invasive weeds, please report your sightings to the Oregon Invasive Species Hotline if found in Oregon or the Washington Invasive Species Council if the sighting occurred in Washington.

Your help in identifying and reporting locations of these invasive weeds in our community will provide early detection information to the experts working to stop the next invasion before it starts!

This map shows all of the boot brush stations located at trailheads in the Columbia River Gorge. (Credit: Emily Stevenson)

For additional resources, visit these websites: