This was supposed to be a slightly different post.
While exploring Oregon’s Columbia River gorge last week, I envisioned sharing a “how-to” guide on the best places to camp and which gorges to climb through to find hidden waterfalls.
Unfortunately, for the last two weeks, the entire region has been engulfed in massive forest fires, and it’s likely many places in this post no longer exist, at least not in any way that would resemble these photos. The Eagle Creek fire, started by a terrible human who threw firecrackers into the gorge, reached nearly 40,000 acres and burned homes, parks, trails, and centuries old trees and other flora. Sadly, it started just 24 hours after we visited this place.
Obviously, this fire was started by a human, but part of the reason it’s spread so much is due to a lack of rain in the area. The early stages of climate change include less rainfall and drier climates. So pay attention: we’re only going to get so many warnings that our planet is changing before it’s too late to right the ship.
Hopefully when these fires are out, some of these places will still exist. And when they do, I recommend following a similar itinerary to the one below. It’s filled with waterfalls, convenient campsites, gorges covered in fern walls, and treks through rivers to places that look like something out of a fairytale.
So here’s the same post – but know that these places may be destroyed. Let’s use this as a lesson to spread the word that forest fires are a major threat and we need to do everything in our power to protect natural treasures.
Oregon Waterfalls: Stay:
Ainsworth state park: In addition to having access to hiking trails that run the length of the gorge, this campsite also has showers, clean bathrooms, and generously sized sites. Reservations are recommended. If you’re hiking or biking, snag a site in lot “C,” which features campsites hidden among oversized ferns and gently drooping trees.
Sidenote: This park is near a railroad track, so if you’re a light sleeper you may want earplugs. The train sounded loud to me while I was awake, but I ended up sleeping right through it.
Oregon waterfalls: Hike :
Explore upper ponytail falls, accessed via a 2.5 mile hike (mostly flat) from lot “C” of the Ainsworth State Park campground. This massive waterfall is fed by both snowmelt and underground reservoirs. During the summer, this makes a wonderful swimming hole, so feel free to bring a swimsuit (or not!) and a towel. Remember, pack out everything you pack in.
Want to keep going? Head further along the trail for another 30 minutes and you’ll get to another waterfall with a beautiful wooden footbridge running across it. This is the middle part of Oneota Gorge, which I’ll write all about soon in a future post. At this point, you can either keep going up a fairly steep 1.5 miles to get to the top falls, or turn back and return to the camp.
Oregon Waterfalls: What else makes this place cool?
This whole area is temperate rainforest, which means super lush, super green foliage and trails that make you feel like a jungle explorer. Plus, this area has over 20 waterfalls, some hundreds of feet tall. The trail system connects nearly all of them and by hiking in, rather than driving, you’ll avoid the nightmare of finding parking in the touristy, easy-to-access areas. Ferns, mosses and lichens dot the landscape, create an extremely unique landscape unlike anything I’ve ever seen. All the more reason why it’s so tragic that someone started a fire in this landscape, despite all the warnings and signage. I can’t wait to get back here and cross my fingers that parts of it still look as magical as it did when I visited.
PS: If you need some good outdoor gear that also helps restore the environment, check out Wanderand.co. Every single item they offer helps out a cause and they also make the most comfortable T-shirts I’ve ever worn (no, they didn’t pay me to say that!)