Chasing Winter Waterfalls
I had great intentions of getting out to snowshoe in some sno-parks this winter in Oregon, but…there’s been a real lack of snow. There was some really early snow in October in the mountains and foothills, but then it melted and it has mostly been rain since. Of course, winter isn’t over, and there might be some snowier days ahead, but in the meantime, winter is still a perfect time to get out and find waterfalls.
I’ve always had a love affair with waterfalls, there’s just something amazing about seeing the rush of water over a big cliff, feeling the spray of water, and just seeing something kind of rare and unique from a geological perspective. The Pacific Northwest, and particularly Oregon, have the unique advantage of having lots of precipitation, a variety of rivers, and variations in elevation that were created from shifting plates in the earth a long time ago. This makes Oregon a great place for some amazing and epic waterfalls.
This winter, I had the opportunity to join some friends on hikes to some waterfalls, all within an hour or two from Corvallis.
On New Year’s Eve day, I traveled to Abiqua Falls. I had been here before in the summer when I could just walk out into the shallow water. This was a very different waterfall in winter, with deep water and fast flows. The drive to the falls is on gravel that isn’t always maintained since the fall is technically on private land owned by Mount Angel Abbey, so unless your vehicle has a good amount of clearance, it’s a good idea to just park further up the road and walk down. The trail itself is steep and short, with the total round trip being probably just over a mile. The trail has some old ropes that can help you navigate the steep trail without falling, so unless your dog can be off-leash safely, I wouldn’t recommend this one for dogs. I love this waterfall because it is an adventure to find but a short hike with an amazing amphitheater where you can get a perfect view of the falls.
After Abiqua that day, we headed to Butte Creek Falls which is nearby. I had never heard of this one before, but it was easy to drive to and a short hike with two waterfalls to see. We could walk behind the first one, which was really fun, although it was definitely slick with the rocks. Butte Creek Falls is 78 ft. with a 25 ft. Upper Butte Creek Falls. The trail is a short loop that is about a mile long with a great overlook of the falls.
Two weeks later, I went with friends to Henline Mountain for a training hike and after that, we stopped by Henline Falls, which is an easy mostly flat hike of about 2 miles round trip. It quickly became one of my favorite waterfalls I have ever seen in Oregon. It is 125 ft. tall and has a cool rock outcropping to the left, with an old cave to the right. If you are adventurous and brave enough (maybe on a dry day) you can head up to the side across the stream and find some additional waterfalls.
The next Sunday, I headed out with a friend to Kentucky Falls, which is off of HWY 126. There is a maze of logging roads which curve above the Santiam River, so I would definitely recommend bringing specific mileage directions. We used a Bill Sullivan book and had no problems finding the falls, although the last section of gravel road was quite treacherous in spots due to rain water draining in the road. The hike is a beautiful hike down to the river (about 4.5 miles round trip), where you can see a waterfall within the first mile.
The twin falls are about another mile away, and are amazing to see. The hike back out will give you a good workout, since you have to head back up hill.
My dog, Millie, came out for this one and she would give it two paws up. We didn’t feel like we needed the driving directions back and had some interesting adventures on winding roads, reminding me why you follow the guide books.
After that, we had to stop at Oakshire Brewing in Eugene for beer (cider for me) and a late lunch from a food truck (fish tacos!).
And after three weekends of waterfall hunting, there are still so many more! What is your favorite waterfall?