April 2, 1995

Nesting Birds Clip Rock Climbers’ Wings


If you’re a climber, don’t count on tackling Beacon Rock real soon.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has closed the rock to climbers to keep them from getting whacked by a 200 mph package of dusky plumage and ugly personality.

The rock, an 848-foot basalt monolith about 35 miles east of Vancouver, Wash., on the Columbia River, is a wonderful place to raise a peregrine falcon family. And that fact hasn’t been wasted on falcons.

Trouble is, the mom and dad who have colonized the rock don’t like anyone poking around their nest.

About 3,000 climbers will scale the rock in a typical year. But it was closed to climbing for a while last year after the peregrine pair swooped on climbers to protect their chicks, which were in the climbers’ path. Eventually, the young grew up and flew away.

And how about this year? Will mom and dad or another falcon family nest there? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. And if they do they’ll undoubtedly defend their turf.

“We want to make sure rock climbers aren’t injured and that the falcons have peace and quiet to raise their chicks,” the commission said.

Climbing was closed this year starting March 1. If peregrines don’t show up by May 1, the commission will reopen the rock. Otherwise, it will stay shut through August.

Even if climbing is closed, however, the rest of Beacon Rock State Park, including the hiking trail up the other side of the rock, will be open.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is evaluating rock climbing in some of its wildlife areas to determine impacts climbers might be having on nesting birds.

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