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New heights – Business offers tree climbing at Silver Falls State Park

By James Day

At Silver Falls State Park you can spend a lot of time looking down. Down the trail, down the canyon, down the creek and definitely, down at the waterfall.

But what happens if you look up and keep looking up. There is a whole new world in the tree canopy, and now there is a way to explore it.

Tree Climbing at Silver Falls, which operated a short pilot season at the park in the summer of 2021, is open for business and booking tours.

Tree Climbing at Silver Falls offers a unique experience.
Tree Climbing at Silver Falls offers a unique experience.

The four-hour tour starts and ends near the Howard Creek horse camp. You can climb in the morning, you can climb in the afternoon or you can climb at sunset. You can even climb in the rain and snow, said owner Leo Rosen-Fischer, who adds that high winds are usually the only outside factor that can lead to a tour cancellation. 

You have to be eight or older to climb and Rosen-Fischer says he has booked tours with folks in their 70s. The operation has special battery-operated ascenders that help those with lower fitness levels.

“We are the only professional climbing organization in Oregon that offers this experience,” Rosen-Fischer told Our Town. “Participants learn about trees, old-growth ecology, the importance of protecting old-growth forest, preserving forests so they can grow into old-growth forest and experience the unforgettable adventure and fun of climbing giant trees in beautiful Silver Falls Park.”

Rosen-Fischer has been climbing for 20 years and has been operating his business for 10 after a law school experiment didn’t take.

“My grandfather and parents were all mountaineers,” he said. “Actually my grandfather knew one of the inventors of the Jumar ascender, a piece of popular climbing equipment that we use in our tree-climbing program. My grandfather told me he was able to help test out the Jumar in the Swiss Alps when they were still inventing and developing it.

“My father would teach me climbing on trees for practice before rock climbing and mountain climbing. Basically 25 years later I am now full circle. After having taught climbing in college, and doing various tree service work, I wanted to share my passion for recreational tree climbing and started a business in 2012.”

Tree Climbing at Silver Falls offers a unique experience.
Tree Climbing at Silver Falls offers a unique experience.

Operating a business at Silver Falls is not an everyday occurrence, but interim park manager Chris Gilliand says the concept does come up.

“We receive requests every week for some type of activity in the park,” he said. “We have a few evaluation tools to help us determine if a request to host an event or to operate in the park should use our standard special use permit (typical of weddings or races) a commercial special use permit (such as the tree-climbing operation) or a concessions contract (such as the South Falls Cafe and Smith Creek Village operators).”

Gilliand also noted that park officials take seriously their stewardship of the park’s resources.

“Prior to a tree being selected (for climbing) our forester and biologist inspect the trees for potential safety and/or natural resources concerns,” he said. “They use drones and physical inspections. The trees are also inspected at the end of the busy season to see if there were any long-term impacts.”

“I hope all people leave with an unforgettable experience that was fun and created memories they will cherish forever,” Rosen-Fischer. “I also want people to learn about the ecology of old-growth trees and forests. They are important to the balance of our environment for many reasons, including forest fires, wildlife, and CO2 absorption.

“Hopefully people will leave with a greater appreciation of them and understand the importance of protecting more forests to turn into old-growth for future generations.”

Tree Climbing at Silver Falls

For more information on the tree-climbing program at Silver Falls State Park go to
www.treeclimbingatsilverfalls.com, email [email protected] or call 206-914-8613.

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