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Search & rescue team gives Multnomah Falls some much needed TLC

A Pacific Northwest Search & Rescue member removes trash from Multnomah Falls. (Photo: PNWSAR)

At 620 feet, Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon. It's awe-inspiring, making it one of the most popular destinations in the Pacific Northwest. Each year, 2 million people visit the dramatic, two-tiered falls, taking pictures from all angles, but very few get to see it suspended on a rappel rope, from below the footbridge.

Tony Hobkirk and his search and rescue team received a rare call Sunday -- rappel off Multnomah Falls and pick up trash.

Hobkirk says the Forest Service asked Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue to remove a drone that had crashed on the cliff wall near the lower falls.

"It's incredibly beautiful there," Hobkirk said of rappelling from the footbridge. "You don't get to hang from places like that very often."

Hobkirk says the challenge wasn't picking up trash; he says his team had to rappel correctly and quickly because they had to temporarily close the hiking trail.

"We don't get to do this stuff very often," he said. "There were hundreds and hundreds of people there, all taking pictures of us and watching us."

Hobkirk says his team set up and monopod, anchored it to the footbridge and lowered one rescuer at a time. The rescuer swept left and right, plucking trash from the cliff face. Hobkirk says they cleaned both sides of the lower falls.

"We found a lot of random things you would expect to have people drop off the bridge there when they were up there by the falls and taking pictures," he said.

He says they found sandals, sunglasses, clothing, cans, food wrappers and a cellphone, which they've turned over to the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. They also safely removed the drone.

Hobkirk estimates it's been years since the last cliff-side cleanup. "They wanted to make sure everything looks as nice as possible because I expect a lot of visitors this summer," he said of the Forest Service's request.

Hobkirk says he's thought about rappelling off the footbridge at Multnomah Falls before, but he never knew he'd get the call to do so.

He says he got the closest to the falls, standing on the cliff underneath the bridge, about 70 feet from the bottom.

"Everywhere I go, especially in the Gorge, there's all kinds of things like that, all kinds of waterfalls and so it's a rare opportunity," he said. "Definitely, a once in a lifetime opportunity, for sure."

Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue (PNWSAR) is a 100% volunteer non-profit ground search and rescue team, saving lives since 1993.

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