I don’t see it posted anywhere else on the Proj, so for anyone not already aware: the footbridge at Smith is scheduled to be closed until September 22 for construction of a new bridge. Edit: re-opening of the bridge has been delayed until mid-October
And while there are ways of crossing the river without the bridge, it’s worth noting that the official stance from the state park is that they are “discouraging” doing this for the following reasons (take ‘em for what they’re worth):
The river level fluctuates quite a bit from day to day and may change without notice. What might be an easy crossing one day could change quickly.
The horse fords are not designed for human use, and can be unpredictable and dangerous. I cannot recommend their use for wading across the river.
Redmond Fire & Rescue and Deschutes County Search & Rescue also don’t have access across the bridge, so any emergency needs during that time put first responders at risk and response times will be delayed.
Park staff will not be able to access compost toilets or perform trail maintenance or repairs as often, and we want to minimize those maintenance needs during this period.
We worked with the Xerces Society and US Fish and Wildlife to survey and relocate Western Ridged Mussels under the footbridge that could be impacted by the construction. In a very small area, we relocated 148 of these threatened mussels, which are being considered for ESA listing. Wading can crush and kill them and damages their habitat.
Boulder hopping near the lower gorge is also very dangerous and not recommended.
Climbers have been fording the river at low water since the sixties. It is the shortest approach if you were headed over Asterisk Pass or to climbs left of there. You walk from the bivi down past Rope De Dope rock, then out to the river and look for the flats where the river is slow and knee deep. A stick is helpful for balance. It's dead easy, I've even done it with my 10 year old kids.
That being said, sounds like the park is frowning on it...even though the well worn trails clearly lead to the ford on both sides. The point about SAR not being able to ford with a stretcher is valid.
There is a lot of trad and sport that doesn't require crossing the bridge: The lower gorge and Staender Ridge for example. Not to mention Trout and the Portland crags.