Sunday, August 8, 2010

Waterfalls in northwest Oregon

There are 2 great places to go to see waterfalls in northwest Oregon, the Columbia River Gorge and Silver Falls.

Wahkeena Falls

Columbia River Gorge : The western entrance to the Columbia River Gorge is at Troutdale, 20 minutes east of Portland. We exited SR 84 at Troutdale and followed the signs for the Historic Columbia River Highway (aka 30). It took us about 4 hours to drive the first 30-miles because we stopped to see the view lookouts and stop at 5 of the waterfalls. Most of the waterfalls can be seen from a short walk from the parking areas. I found that “The Best Gorge Map,” which I requested a copy of before we left for our trip, was a helpful resource for this area.

Our first stop was at Vista House, an octagonal stone structure which was built between 1916-18 as a memorial to Oregon pioneers, as a comfort station for those traveling on the Historic Columbia River Highway and as an observatory.

The Vista House offers amazing views looking down the Columbia River, and also of Washington state, which is on the other side of the river.

There is a visitor’s center, a small gift shop and bathrooms at the Vista House.

Next we stopped at Guy Talbot State Park and see the first waterfall along the Historic Columbia River highway.

A trail underneath the Historic Columbia River Highway bridge leads directly to the 250’ tall Latourell Falls.

Even the many bridges along the Historic Columbia River Gorge are picturesque.

Sheppards Dell Falls is the next waterfall along the highway.

The path is short and the view is worth it.

Bridal Veil Falls is located in Bridal Veil State Park. The lower trail takes you downhill to the base falls and is about a mile round, and is a little steep coming back. There is also a short, level trail that takes you through a prairie and offers view of the Columbia River.

Wahkeena Falls is the next stop. Wahkeena is a Yakima Indian word meaning “most beautiful.”

The most well known and popular spot is Mulnomah Falls. It is very tall and picturesque, with a lovely little stone bridge part way up. There is also a large restaurant and gift shop here.

We continued on to Cascade Locks and instead of going the rest of the 50-some miles of the Historic Columbia River Highway, we took the “Bridge of the Gods” toll bridge over the river and into Washington state. We headed back towards Portland, west on highway 14 which goes parallels the other side of the Columbia River. We stopped at Beacon Rock, the core of an ancient volcano. There is a steep, mile-long trail to the top but it was getting late in the day so we didn’t hike it.

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Silver Falls State Park : this park is near Silverton, Oregon, and is an hour and a half south of Portland. It has a 9-mile trail aptly called the “Trail of 10 Falls” that takes you to 10 waterfalls. I wasn’t up for a 9-mile hike, so we started at the South Falls Lodge and walked 1 mile and back, going to what we thought might be the two more scenic waterfalls.
South Falls is 177 feet and is located fairly close to the South Falls Lodge, although the trail was steep at times. If you look close at the photo, you can see people on the trail.

You can walk behind South Falls.

Lower South Falls is 93 feet and almost a mile from South Falls.

You can walk behind Lower South Falls, also. You can see some people in the upper right corner of the photo.


To see more photos of Silver Falls, go here: Silver Falls on Flickr

To see more photos of the Columbia River Gorge, go here: Columbia River Gorge on Flickr

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