Columbia River Gorge Explored
On a recent road trip through Oregon, I fell in love with the Columbia River Gorge. An explorer's paradise, with an unlimited number of hikes through lush green forests and dozens of spectacular waterfalls to cool off under. It’s not hard to see why this was named one of the seven wonders of Oregon.
Dry Creek Falls
Stephen and I had 1 day to explore the beautiful area, we decided to start the exploration with a short hike to Dry Creek Falls.
Our excitement grew as we drove along Dry Creek Rd, a misty dirt track with trees tightly overhanging forming a lush green tunnel. After parking the car at the security gate we began to trek along the Dry Creek Falls trail. The walk to the falls is approximately 2km/1.2mi, with around 500ft of elevation. To the left of the trail, the water of Dry Creek cascades over moss covered rocks.
As we neared the end of the track we could hear the familiar sounds of water crashing against rocks and slowly Dry Creek Falls came into view.
A spectacular waterfall cascading out of a slot canyon 50ft high in the basalt cliff face.
Next up for the day was a walk to Wahclella Falls. The trail begins at Wahclella Falls car park across the highway from Bonneville Dam. And winds for approximately 2km alongside Tanner Creek. The trail passes a number of smaller seasonal falls, some of which cascade directly onto the trail.
The entire canyon is a thing of beauty with lush green moss covering boulders the size of houses and ferns littering the canyon floor.
As you approach the falls the trail splits into two. This is a loop trail and both lead to the falls. The trail on the left stays high while the trail on the right drops down to creek level and crosses over via a bridge.
We chose to stay on the high trail and after a few more minutes walking the roar of the falls were within earshot.
We rounded a corner and through the trees stunning visuals of the falls came into view.
Wahclella falls is a split level waterfall with a combined height of 107m/350ft. A smaller waterfall higher up tumbles into the slot canyon joining the creek before plummeting over a 20m drop to a large pool below. Majority of the water in Tanner Creek originates from an underground spring, allowing a heavy flow regardless of the time of year.
There are a number of large slippery boulders around that are perfect to sit and admire the breathtaking view.
As you begin the return trip make sure you keep following the track to complete the loop rather than doubling up on the trail you walked in on.
After jumping back in the car we headed for the Historic Columbia River Highway and parked at Oneonta (Oh-Knee-Ohntah) Gorge. This is the beginning of the Oneonta Gorge trail, which is not so much of a trail and more of a walk up the creek. Prepare to get wet!
We managed to walk ankle deep in the freezing cold water a few hundred meters up the gorge. Eventually, we got to the infamous logjam. A dangerous pile of logs stuck at the beginning of the narrower section of the gorge. Water rushes over these logs and depending on conditions can be very dangerous.
We could get a glimpse of the beautiful gorge stretching out in front of us as we peered over the logjam from a higher vantage point of a rock. The water appeared to be much deeper on the other side so we decided not to risk it on this cold day and turned around and splashed our way back to the car to dry off.
A little further down the road is one of Oregon’s most famous waterfalls, Multnomah Falls.
Multnomah Falls is a large two-tiered set of falls standing an impressive 190m/611ft tall. The view from the lower section of the falls is spectacular as you look up at Benson Bridge. The bridge arches over the top of the lower falls and the much larger upper falls can be seen directly behind.
It’s a short walk to Benson Bridge which is definitely worth it. Make sure you dress warmly as the spray from the falls will leave you dripping.
We continued the hike from the bridge to the top of the falls. There are a number of switchbacks as you ascend the steep terrain surrounding the area. We were expecting spectacular views from the top and were rather disappointed. The viewing platform is set back from the edge, so it was almost impossible to get a view of the water as it fell to the rocks below. Trees encroach the platform and limit the view of the Columbia River before you.
I was lucky enough to have my GoPro attached to an extender pole allowing me to capture shots of the water as it tumbled over the edge.
I wouldn’t suggest walking to the top of the falls unless you are extremely keen. There are much nicer walks close by worth exploring instead.