Back-road adventures with a sneak peek at nature are the best and it pays to go with someone who really knows the way, like retired USFS manager, George Buckingham.
“This hike is a little more out of the way in the Siuslaw National Forest. It is characterized as more difficult with some steep portions, but it’s also just a mile down and a mile back out to the trailhead.”
Our small hiking party sported cameras in hand and each had a photo mission in mind as we trekked in the coast range hills of the Nestucca River watershed and we were on a trail you’ve likely missed.
It is a soggy place where the wet is measured in feet not inches, but we were determined to reach a waterfall whose name may surprise you.
“We get a lot of questions about that and they wonder, ‘Did you name it after Niagara Falls in New York?” Said Buckingham. “No, it’s named after Niagara Creek, a tributary of the Nestucca River.”
It's a little-known fact that Oregon has its own Niagara Falls and it's not been borrowed from the distant state.
After the mile-long downhill hike, we rounded a rocky bend and discovered that the trail signs fooled us! For here, deep in this coast range canyon, there are actually two waterfalls for the price of one hike!
“Yes, it’s amazing,” noted Buckingham with a wide smile. “We’re looking at Niagara Falls and Niagara creek down below us, but around the corner is the other part of the waterfall pair called Pheasant Creek Falls. So, two waterfalls that you can see at the same time.”
Pheasant Creek tops out at 112 feet, while Niagara is a close second at 107 feet tall.
Both falls were born in the heart of these mountains and their waters have cut and worn and shaped the 40-million-year-old basalt into a giant amphitheatre.
Local photographer Don Best was drawn to the power of Niagara Falls, a true plunge pool waterfall that shimmers and whirls as it plows down from a cleft in the ancient basalt.
“I shoot a lot of different kinds of shots,” noted the longtime landscape photographer. “I shoot every possible angle: down by the creek, up high and down low. That way I’ll catch something which will turn out well.”
Nearby, at Pheasant Creek Falls, photographers Michael Hordyski and Charlie Lonsford were pulled in by the waterfall’s closeness to the hiker. So close you really could reach out and touch them. Both falls are true cascade type waterfalls.
“Today’s light is perfect because it’s overcast,” noted Horodyski. “And this is a great time of year because there’s not a lot of foliage on the trees – so you really center your shots on the waterfalls.”
Charlie Lonsford added, “There are a lot of falls in Oregon that you can take pictures of but these are the types of falls that I like to shoot.”
If you determine to travel this way, be sure to follow USFS, JW Cleveland’s tips. He offered: “Watch your step! It is slick and wet and steep. So, wear proper footwear and rain gear because you never know when something could blow in.”
Directions: Drive Hwy 101 south from Tillamook to Beaver, Oregon.
Then travel east on Blaine Road for 6 miles. At Blaine Junction travel east on Upper Nestucca River Road for 5.8 miles to Forest Service Road 8533. Go south 4.3 miles to Forest Service Road 8533-131. Turn right at the junction and travel 0.7 miles to trailhead parking.
If you would like to visit more of Oregon – consider a walk on the wild side with my new book: “Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures With the Kids.” You’ll find activities to engage any kid, from archery to clamming on the coast to hunting for thundereggs to zip-lining through trees in an aerial adventure park.
In addition, be sure to check out “Grant’s Getaways Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon.” You will enjoy 48 uniquely Oregon adventures highlighting my fish and wildlife encounters. Scores of colorful photos by “Grant’s Getaways” photographer, Jeff Kastner, show off some of our finest moments in the field. You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon adventures in: "Grant's Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures"