Oregon Waterfalls Revisited

What better way to start a trip to the hot, dry, desert Southwest than a visit to some lush, green waterfalls!

My friend Jeremy and I had traveled to the Southwest a few years back, and by this time we were more than ready for more desert photo adventures. So we packed my Subaru Forester to capacity, then threw a Yakima SkyBox on the roof-rack for good measure, and headed out.

There are lots of ways to get to the Southwest from Seattle, and one of the coolest (literally!) is to drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway east of Portland, Oregon.

About 14,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age, the cataclysmic Missoula Floods scoured out the Columbia River Gorge, leaving sheer walls of basalt up to 4,000 feet (1,200 m) deep. Instability of the underlying layers has left the north side less dramatic as landslides have reduced the slope along the Washington side, while the north-facing Oregon side is a wonderland of beauty cloaked in firs, ferns, and rare endemic plants.

But the Washington side has its gems, too. Near the town of Carson, the slightly difficult to reach Panther Creek Falls is not well known, but is popular with the locals. So after stopping in Portland for lunch, we made Panther Creek our first real photo stop of the trip.

Panther Creek Close-Up, Panther Creek Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Washington

Water cascades over a small section of Panther Creek Falls, near Carson, Washington.

It was starting to get a bit late, so we had prioritize our waterfall visits, and chose to head back to the Oregon side for a shoot at Ponytail Falls. It was a bit crowded at first, as a couple of photographers were leading a workshop there, but eventually they left and we had the place to ourselves.

Ponytail Falls and Trail, Historic Columbia River HIghway, Oregon

Ponytail Falls pours over the trail into Horsetail Creek, near the Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon.

Thinking we were done for the day, we were heading back to our campsite when we noticed that no one was on the Multnomah Falls bridge as we passed. This has never before happened in the history of the world, so we quickly parked the car and hurried to take advantage of this anomaly. Of course there were people on the bridge by the time we got set up, but with a little patience we were able to get some shots without tourists.

Multnomah Falls at Sunset, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon

Multnomah Falls looks peaceful in the late afternoon light, near the Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon.

The next morning I wanted to revisit my favorite waterfall, Wahclella Falls. It takes a little work to get there, and a scramble up some rocks to get the best viewpoint, but it’s so worth the effort.

Wahclella Falls and Footbridge, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon

The Wahclella Falls Trail crosses Tanner Creek just below Wahclella Falls, near the Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon.

Soon after the hike to Wahclella Falls, we broke camp and headed for Utah, leaving behind the lush, green foliage of the temperate rainforest in favor of the much drier desert climate of sagebrush and sandstone. But those adventures will have to wait until next week!

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One Response to “Oregon Waterfalls Revisited”

  1. Barb Crabtree says:

    Wonderful..I just want to sit an stare at t waterfalls,an feel I’m there. Thank you,for bringing us there