In Search of Waterfalls

Highway 84 along the Gorge. Crown Point sits atop the cliff

In the mood for adventure, my son Ryan and I decide to hike to a few little-known waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. He’s 30 years younger than I am so I have to stay in shape (thank you treadmill) to keep up with him on these treks. Usually I do all right but sometimes on the steep switchbacks he waits while I rest and other times I tell him it’s okay to go ahead when I know we’re near our destination.

Coopey Falls

Coopey Falls is our first stop. Located behind a delightful flower-filled Franciscan Convent it’s a short easy hike on a green mossy path. We’re slightly perplexed at which door of the convent to knock on to ask permission to view the falls so I ring the bell at the main door and a kindly nun points the way.

The area’s secluded and charming and we aren’t disappointed as the waterfall twists, turns and drops in a spectacular display. Years ago someone built a wall to create a pool at the bottom of the falls. Today it’s moss covered and looks like part of the landscape. Another smaller falls drops from this.

Lower portion of Coopey Falls from pool

From here we drive less than a mile and bushwhack up a rock-covered slope and then through huge-leafed vegetation to get to the bottom of Mist Falls. This waterfall seems as tall (400 feet) as the darling of the Gorge, Multnomah Falls, without the water power – thus the name “Mist Falls” for the mist that appears to spray over the top of the cliff. Lewis and Clark mentioned the falls in their journal and it’s visible from the highway most of the year.

Mist Falls

On the way there, a side trail takes hikers to the remains of 1916 Multnomah Lodge, one of many roadside Inns that used to stand along the scenic highway. All that remains is a chimney. Later the main lodge was built at Multnomah Falls where it stands today.

Mist Falls is another multi-level falls with various displays as it falls, glides or radiates over the rocks. The nice thing is standing directly at the bottom of the falls in the creek and letting the cooling mist spray refresh. This falls is more formidable in the Spring but we find it worth the climb.

The Mist Falls experience is all about seclusion and the hike to get there. It’s a mix between a scramble and a slide, so not your average well-paved hike. One of the highlights is the creek that follows the path to the falls. Whatever time of year, wear boots and long pants.

Wahkeena Creek

After a picnic lunch by the creek at Wahkeena Falls State Park, we hike to the top of the falls in search of a little-known side trail that takes us along the rim of the cliff to view a series of falls above Wahkeena Falls, one is called Neck-tie.

Necktie Falls

Though there’s metal fencing to prevent hikers from tumbling over the steep drop-off, caution is still called for. But, wow, exhilarating and well worth finding – raw unbridled nature. There’s several offshoot trails in this area but a little exploring pays off. Ryan and I become separated several times in our falls foray but I discover I have a built in homing device that leads me straight to him every time. Must be a “mother” thing.

On the way back home we make a last stop at Sheppard’s Dell for a quick hike down to the base of an impressive waterfall and the second major one if you’re driving from Portland. The road crosses a bridge over a deep chasm and unless you pull out, park along the road and peer over the bridge – the falls remains unseen. It’s an easy hike to the base following a paved path and moss-covered rock wall.

Lower portion of Sheppard's Dell Falls

I’m tired, I’m ready for a shower (potential poison oak alert) and a soak in a hot tub. But I’m already planning my next hike and venture into Oregon’s natural wonderlands. My son and I decide we can’t get enough of what lies just beyond our doorstep. I’m forever grateful we share this same passion.

From top of Wahkeena Falls - Lemmons Viewpoint

To view more photos of the day’s adventure click here.


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