While the Columbia River Gorge has long impressed us with its gigantic size, I cherish its nooks and crannies even more – especially where the water flows and famous falls whirl and shimmer and ripple and where you can leave all distractions behind.
“This really is a place where you can shut your cell phone off, turn the lap top off and re-connect with each other and with the past,” noted Diane McClay, Oregon State Park’s Ranger.
At 125 feet, Shepperd’s Dell is small in size as Gorge falls go. It rolls out of Young’s Creek to become a foamy moment that resembles a bowtie turned on its side.
The water boils and roils, then slips and slides down forty feet of smooth rock face before it twists and shoots up high to celebrate its freedom and falls into a rocky cradle.
George Shepperd opened Shepperd’s Dell to the public in 1915 as a tribute to his wife.
What a romantic!
One mile east of Shepperd’s Dell is Bridal Veil Falls State Park, a day-use site for a picnic or a stroll down a half-mile trail to a stairway and viewing platform.
The park’s namesake drops in two tiers and it is best enjoyed with someone special.
You’ll see why when you stand on the viewing platform and gaze up at the 160-foot waterfall plunging twice in a wide, steep slide.
Diane added, “It looks the veil of a bride’s gown coming down and back.
In fact, a lot of people get their wedding invitations stamped at the bridal veil post office, so there is a lot of nostalgia there and a connection to that history.”
If time is of the essence and you’re ready to head back toward Portland, travel west on the scenic highway past Shepperd’s Dell Falls a mile and a half to Latourell Falls, where an incredible show speaks for itself.
It hisses and bellows and shouts for attention as it falls 249 feet. It’s the second-highest falls in the Gorge and seems to take on a life of its own you can’t help but appreciate.
The falls was named for Joseph Latourell, an early settler of the area, and donated to the state of Oregon in 1929 by Guy W. Talbot.
A paved trail allows you to hike to the base of this falls and continues across a bridge to a picnic area.
Diane cautioned to keep safety close to heart when you trek this way: “One can get lost in the beauty of this area and we strongly suggest that people have their feet grounded when they start looking around – you can get overwhelmed with both the height and the massive nature of the rocks in the area.”
Ninety miles to the west, photographer Don Best likes to say he hasn’t met a waterfall he doesn’t love …”to shoot – with a camera.”
Best is a lifelong local in Tillamook County – his grandfather arrived by horse and wagon and his father told tales of old growth timber, giant elk and waterfalls galore.
So, Best looks up at Munson Falls, (the tallest waterfall in the Oregon Coast Range), with a nostalgic nod to a somewhat romanticized past and offered us a tip or two that might help you to capture the best that falling water offers.
“The secret to shooting a waterfall is to get as slow a shutter speed as you can so that the water looks silky – gets that silky look to it and to do that, dial that shutter speed to 25th of a second or even 15th of a second. All of that water will have a real silky look to it.”
Best added that there are many waterfalls in the Tillamook State Forest that go unvisited and are under appreciated.
He called it a ‘treasure hunt for nature’s beauty” and added: “The fun part of it all is discovering them and I always tell people that God is better at the posing part than I am at taking pictures. Waterfalls are spectacular.”
You’ve many spectacular waterfalls to choose from when you visit the 9,000-acre state parkland called Silver Falls State Park.
It offers a gorgeous Trail of Ten Falls plus the rustic South Falls Lodge that stands large from rock and timber construction.
Dorothy Brown-Kwaiser, a Park Ranger at Silver Falls said, “ The lodge is gorgeous and I think it’s one of the highlights in Oregon.
"You have really low laying buildings made out of natural materials; timbers, the big stonework and a huge, open room – really tall with big beams and a rustic feeling. There’s a fire going and it has that smell; just feels like a lodge, like you’re in a wilderness feeling like you’re in nature.”
Campers can let the romance last longer inside rental cabins that offer many of the comforts of home. (Reservations are advised.)
Remember – rain gear and hiking boots will make your hiking adventures more comfortable in winter.
“It’s a bit quieter this time of year,” noted Kwaiser. “ You experience things differently – more on your own without the crowds and so the sounds in the park are different. There are so many reasons to be here – but really, the waterfalls are at the center of everything here.”