Nearly Enough Waterfalls

South Falls – 177 foot high waterfall only 1/4 mile walk from the parking lot.

You know how when you love something, you can keep having more, and your enjoyment stays peaked? Like football games, or volcanoes, or lighthouses? On my birthday I picked a hike that seemed like there might be enough waterfalls to satiate me. Silver Falls State Park has waterfalls, and then some. On the Trail of Ten Falls there are more waterfalls per square mile than any trail I’ve ever been on. Definitely more than ten. Mother Nature gave us a fabulous day for the 9th of January, and I absorbed (sometimes almost literally, as one gets rather soaked at a couple of viewing spots) nearly enough waterfalls.

Oh, so by the way, I turned 51 over the weekend! I picked a small Oregon town nearby as home base, that is only 30 minutes from a park that Tara and I visited a couple years ago. We had hiked a trail there, but didn’t have time to do the whole thing, so Saturday I grabbed a friend and we did the whole thing. It’s supposed to be 7.2 miles (11.6 km), but we went on every little side trail and extended it to more than 7.6 miles. I’m not sure how much more, because I forgot to set my trail recording app until we were already well along. Oops.

It was super foggy on the drive to the park. By the time we arrived, it was sunny on the rims above the canyon, and foggy inside the canyon – where we hiked. It made for some pretty cool photos, including some great shots of crepuscular rays shooting through the trees, and even fog rainbows that my camera managed to capture.

Crepuscular rays reaching down to us through the fog over South Falls.
I seriously cannot decide what this phenomena would be called. Someone help? It’s similar to a glory, or a halo, but those are formed in ice crystals, not fog, as far as I know. This is not a fogbow, because I’m looking at the sun. These colours were brighter and more outstanding in real life, but you can easily see what we saw. It was incredible.

The first two parking lots we passed were small, and full. So we went to the gigantic parking lot at South Falls Day Use area to find a space. With at least 1,000 parking spaces, they had room for us. We were out for 3 1/2 hours, including a lunch stop to sit on a sopping wet log and eat sandwiches. There is a mask mandate for the whole park, and nearly everyone was compliant, even in anti-mask rural Oregon. That was nice to see because the place was packed. This was the biggest “crowd” I’ve been in during the pandemic. We were all outdoors, and groups distanced from one another, but I’m just not used to seeing people, you know? It was a bit unnerving. It was the first time I’ve gone for a long hike with a mask on the entire time, and let me tell you, it’s not a nice experience. First of all, it was 33 degrees (0.5 C) when we started, so the condensation from our breath was substantial. (Bonus: mask keeps your face warm) In no time, both layers of my cotton facemask were completely wet. When I climbed a hill and sucked in my breath, the sopping wet, cold, mask smashed against my face and into my mouth. Yuck.

Much of the time, this was the hiker density: groups of two to four people, 15 feet apart from each other, going both directions.
But once we hiked farther away from the parking areas, the trail emptied out somewhat.
The buildings around the South Falls Day Use area are all gorgeously constructed, like this tiny Nature Store. The lodge and café were closed, but this remained open.
Our first view of South Falls through some of Oregon’s fabulous mossy, ferny trees. Want a sense of how big this falls is? Look at the tiny people walking behind it. Can you see them?
Now can you see them?

South Falls is the most popular and most visited falls. It was seriously crowded there. The falls is worth all the attention, but we were glad to leave the area and get on down the trail and leave the majority of the people behind.

On the way to Lower South Falls, we went down a series of switchbacks built into the side of the hill. These were all stone steps, thank goodness, because it was so wet in the canyon it could have been a dangerous muddy mess without the stairs and handrails.

Well of course my only photo is of a section of metal steps. But most of the stairs were beautiful hand-placed rock steps.
It’s difficult to see, but this is that same trail, zig-zagging down the hill. You can spot the handrails.
Bundled up hikers taking their first good look at Lower South Falls.
Looking up at Lower South Falls, 93 feet high. You can see people walking behind this one, too.

I mentioned that this 7.2 mile loop is called Trail of Ten Falls. We actually missed one of the falls by accident, but we did see the other nine major falls. Here’s the thing though. The big falls, like the one pictured above, are so astonishing that most of the many smaller falls are not even named. Let me include a gallery, so you can see some of the little falls.

Lower North Falls is only 30 feet high, but makes up for that in acoustics. We surmised that maybe because of the position of the logs that funneled the water, it caused a thunderous crashing sound that was great to behold. Most of these falls were along the same river, but some gave such a humongous roar that it seemed they were on a bigger river. Such was the case here.
Hikers remain masked and socially distanced while gazing at Double Falls. Together, the two drops make up 184 feet of falling water.
Our first look at Middle North Falls, 106 feet high.
The view from behind Middle North Falls.

There was a side path that went behind Middle North Falls. A woman and her daughter passed us while we paused at the intersection and considered it. “You MUST go!” they assured us. “And put up your hood,” they told me. We went and it was exhilarating. Raucous and windy, the path behind the falls whipped us around, sprayed water in our faces, and we had to shout at each other to be heard above the roar. We were soon saturated and I was glad for my waterproof coat with hood. My friend had no hat, but had a good time anyway. The buffeting force was so strong it compelled us to lift our arms wide and catch the wind. I was certain my mascara was running down my face at that point, but I was assured it was not.

Oh, that reminds me of another funny thing on this hike. Since the temp was close to freezing, and our breath came directly across our eyes, due to the masks, it caused our eyelashes to be coated in dewdrops the whole time. It was a pretty comical look.

North Falls (186 feet) may have been my favourite falls of the day. I am disappointed that my photos don’t convey how amazing it was.
Walking beneath North Falls. This falls is near another parking lot, and you can tell because of all the people here.

The approach to North Falls was more scenic than my photos show. The trail through the cave beneath it (apparently called an ampitheatre) was really cool. I was not able to capture how massive; how dynamic; how unique it was with the enormous trees growing from the base; how jaw-droppingly vast and exciting the cave behind it is. What I *am* very pleased with is this short video below of the view standing beneath the falls looking out. Honestly, it makes me think of Tolkien’s elves. Isn’t this sort of like Rivendell?




Looking back along the trail from beneath North Falls.
A photographer and her dog, basically in the middle of the river for a shot. Seriously, we people who carry cameras can be a funny bunch.
We opted to follow the trail to this much safer spot for photography of Upper North Falls. It looks higher than 50 feet, but maybe that’s because we could get close to it.

Bear with me while I whine about the pathetic names of all these beautiful falls. How thoroughly unimaginative: North Falls, Lower North Falls, Upper North Falls, Middle North Falls, etc. etc. The park itself has a better name: Silver Falls. And none of the falls is actually called Silver Falls, for gosh sakes. A few of them had better names: Winter Falls is the one we skipped by accident. Drake Falls and Twin Falls were just too boring to include. (That’s how calloused I am now, after all these falls)

Here are a few more from South Falls (the first one), because it’s just that spectacular.

Tiny, ant-like people crawl behind the falls.
View from beneath South Falls.
A bridge crosses the river here, for a postcard-perfect shot of South Falls.

The picture of me beside the baby falls was the last photo we took. It had been hours, our dogs were barkin’, and it was time to end the hike. That flamingo facemask was made by my amazing spawn, Tara. For Christmas I got one with roosters on it, which is perfect because I love chickens and also because in the Chinese zodiac, I’m the cock.

That was basically our Saturday, but our Sunday was pretty damned cool, too. Stay tuned.

28 thoughts on “Nearly Enough Waterfalls

  1. What an incredible place! I think it is definitely worth a flight out to Oregon strictly to see this state park. Wow!! Mother nature created a glorious place and I’m so glad you were able to celebrate your birthday there. The photos, and that video, are awesome!
    Happy 51st Birthday!!

    1. You may be right, Laurie, that a trip to Oregon might be validated by a single trail past a bucketload of waterfalls. Another great thing about Silver Falls SP is that there is a very nice campground, walkable distance from here, where custodians have planted and encouraged growth so that you almost feel each site is private. It’s simply beautiful, despite being a very big campground. Thanks for the birthday wishes. Yes, I am glad I spent my birthday there. The video is so beautiful, I wish I had made it a little longer. Ah well.

  2. That’s an awesome hike I would do in a heartbeat.

    . . . er . . . it would take longer. But what I meant is, I would not hesitate to go on it and would likely come back with 4-500 photos (which would double the time out hiking).

    1. Yes!! That is the perfect approach. I always love having my camera as the perfect excuse when I want to linger somewhere – either to catch my breath or to spend a disproportionate amount of time with something that catches my eye like bark patterns, or ferns, or a beetle. If you have skills with photographing moving water, you could do so much here. Also, the fog that day was fascinating to watch. I’m so glad I didn’t get 500 photos. It would take me till February to choose the right ones for the blog. 🙂

    1. Err…. ahhh…. well, Derrick, you’ve got me there. Maybe it’s because that’s just the sort of thing I would do? ha ha. There were so many magnificent waterfalls in this one small place. It’s truly a wonder of Nature.

  3. Ahhh, baby waterfall! ❤ I'm so glad you had such an abundance of waterfalls, even if you missed one. It must have been cold and wet(faced) but mighty scenic. What an excellent birthday! And there was another day, I see. Even better.

    1. Maybe I was getting a little bit silly at that late point in the day, and when I spotted the waterfall I squealed, “Baby waterfall!! Get a picture of me beside it!” While I was posing, other hikers passed, and looked curiously at what I was doing. “It’s a baby waterfall!” I exclaimed, to their chuckles. Gosh, I can be a goofball. I’m glad for friends who still like me despite my silliness. It was an excellent birthday and the cold wet mask was worth it. At the very least, I have a mask story I can tell in twenty years when we’ve all forgotten about mandatory masks.

  4. What a perfect way to spend a birthday, Crystal. I’m so glad you had so much fun, and someone to share it all with. Love the video clip! And I absolutely love that I’m a rooster too. 😉 Enjoy your rooster face mask. And may this year be filled with many wonderful hikes.

    1. So, the zodiac tells me that roosters tend to be organized and work on a schedule, and they also like to be the center of attention. Does any of that fit you? It does me. I do a lot of crowing, and try to remind myself to keep it down and let others speak up. Thank you for the compliment on the video. It was a magical spot, and the crashing waterfall movement and sound makes it easier for you to experience what we did. Yes, in this year of being alone ALL THE TIME, it was nice to have a companion on my birthday.

      1. You know, I actually don’t like to be the centre of attention, Crystal, so in that sense I’m definitely not a typical Rooster. I’d much rather just hide in a corner or be in the kitchen cooking, while the people I cook for socialise . . . 🙂 As for being organised, I definitely am, and although I get more done when I have a basic schedule, I tend to not alway stick to it.
        I love being on my own, but like you say, being alone all the time is not pleasant either.

      2. You’re getting an extra dose of isolation right now, aren’t you? If I remember correctly that you’re holding down the fort at the new place.

        Aha! So the zodiac is not always right! I never would have guessed, haha. It’s great that you like to cook; I do not. I do thrive on a schedule, but I love throwing it all out the window when something better comes up (or comes to mind).

      3. Hahaha, I love that you can easily throw away that schedule, Crystal. Yip, the zodiac isn’t always right, but I do find it interesting.
        Yes, another round of isolation on this side, but to my surprise and relief the tradespeople who have to finish up some work are actually working. Yay!! I can’t wait for all the work to be done and rubble to be gone.

      4. I have the same feeling about construction mess. I am ok with it for awhile, but oh, how eager I get to have it taken away so I can begin cleaning and see the results of their work!

      5. Exactly! There was some vague promise that they would come to clean up the construction mess on Monday. Well, I’m still waiting, and tomorrow is Thursday . . . 😦 I stay sane by focusing on other things, so it is starting to blend in with the landscape. 🙂

  5. Well, that’s about totally awesome my friend! My husband went here with his dad and some other friends have been and I have always wanted to go but have never made it yet. Thank you for the sneak peak. I will go some day. Sounds like it was a long hike with some decent elevation change. I’ll bet you were tired afterwards. *I went on a long hike with my mask on the other day and couldn’t figure out why my eyes felt funny and wet. The moisture coming from my breath melted my mascara. I looked like a train wreck when I got back to the car. It was hilarious. And because I wear great “waterproof” mascara there was no fixing it until I got home. 😉 Happy New Year!

    1. Happy New Year Jenny! That is a hilarious story about the melted mascara. When I got to the car I saw that mine was making rings under my eyes, but it wasn’t terrible. Can’t trust some boys to identify a makeup fail, jeez. ha ha. I, too, had waterproof, so all my rubbing at them did nothing but make my eyes red *and* black.

      I’m glad you know about Silver Falls State Park. There are multiple loop options, so you don’t have to do the whole 7.2 miles. Also, surprisingly, not much elevation change considering the huge cliffs you see here. But yes, we were tired by the end. You know that awesome feeling when you get to the car at the end of a hike, and sit in padded seats and get your feet up? Ahhh.

  6. One just has to love a beautiful waterfall, Crystal. And I am 100% convinced that there is no such thing as too many.
    Peggy is jealous since one of her goals is to visit all of the waterfalls in Oregon, a tall order given how many there are. Speaking of Peggy, she is finally ready to work on your quilt with dragons. 🙂 She ordered the material yesterday.
    One more thing, Crystal. A year or so ago we mentioned our son Tony’s inability to fly for the Coast Guard any more due to back problems related to flying. He has now had two back surgeries. He is faced with a dilemma of deciding to wait another 8 months for his medical boards or retire now. Apparently he is not getting a lot of advice from the VA. He has 22 years of service including 10 years or so in the Marines. His vehicle was blown up when in Iraq and he was thrown around considerably, up in the air and then down. We told him of your expertise, and he would like to talk with you. Is it okay if we give him your contact information? –Curt

    1. Your Peggy is a jewel. I can hardly wait till I can come for another visit. Maybe when the pandemic’s over I’ll come take a look at the dragon quilt. 🙂 Of course you can give Tony all my info. Do you still have it? I will email you just in case.

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