Go West, Young Man: Falling water

(Photo by Tyler Penland)

This article is the latest in a series of photo essays by Now Habersham’s Tyler Penland on his recent trip to the West Coast. For more on his travels, visit Roads Less Traveled in the Feature section of NowHabersham.com.

Waterfalls have long been a major part of my life.

Over the years, I have visited countless places where water decides it needs to lose some elevation very quickly, and it almost always happens in a spectacularly beautiful fashion.

The same can be said for the West Coast.

The biggest difference you’ll notice when visiting waterfalls out west is the size. While our waterfalls here on the East Coast are beautiful, the ones out west come in many shapes and sizes, and many are especially tall. 100-foot+ single drops aren’t unusual; some falls reach several hundred feet or more. Yosemite Falls plummets nearly a half mile from top to bottom.

I didn’t see any quite that tall on this trip, but the ones I did catch were amazing.

I had one final morning before reporting to work in Portland, Oregon. I decided to spend that morning exploring some of the popular waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge.

The Columbia River in this region separates Oregon from Washington and is a major geologic feature that has helped shape the region. With the stunning Mount Hood overlooking from the west, the Columbia River has carved out a deep gorge with a wide, flat valley. All the waterfall action happens along the walls of the Gorge where Interstate 84 takes you by the towering cliffs.

Dry Creek Falls

My first stop was a waterfall that is near the top of my bucket list: Dry Creek Falls. This waterfall is located just off the Pacific Crest Trail near the town of Cascade Locks. The Bridge of the Gods is a major attraction in this area, but I kept driving past that and out on a small one-lane dirt road to the spot marked on my map as the trailhead.

Hiking in this area, you have to be wary of Mountain Lions, which are indigenous to the region. Fortunately, I didn’t encounter any on this hike, and just a 20-minute walk up a steep trail led me to the grand Dry Creek Falls.

Dry Creek Falls, Oregon (Photo by Tyler Penland)

This incredible waterfall plummets through the columnar basalt cliffs of the gorge into a grand amphitheater. A trail runs up alongside the creek to get a great view from the base.

This is one of my favorite photographs from my trip, as it really highlights the columnar basalt in the cliffs. This columnar jointed rock is usually volcanic in nature and actually develops in columns as the rocks cool and contract. This rock is rare on the East Coast, occurring only in a few spots, including one in Virginia, one in Missouri, and a small handful in the Northeast.

Dry Creek Falls, Oregon (Photo by Tyler Penland)

I spent a solid hour at this waterfall just enjoying the scenery before heading back down and heading toward my next goal: Multnomah Falls.

Horsetail Falls

I got sidetracked on the way to Multnomah, as the narrow two-lane road that parallels I-84 takes you right by Horsetail Falls. You can probably guess where this waterfall gets its name. It is fairly tall despite the lack of scale in the photos. The straight-on shot is the most common view, and you can really get a feel for why it was named Horsetail.

Horsetail Falls, Oregon (Photo by Tyler Penland)

I was on the hunt for a lesser-viewed angle, though. I hopped beneath a bridge and managed to keep my feet dry to get this shot looking upstream at the drop, complete with the classic clouds and fog so commonly associated with the Pacific Northwest.

Horsetail Falls, Oregon (Photo by Tyler Penland)

After seeing Horsetail, I was running out of time, so I continued on to my ultimate goal for the day.

Multnomah Falls

There are no words to describe Multnomah Falls. This waterfall is nearly 700-feet tall and has come by its popularity honestly. Almost everyone has seen at least one photograph of this classic waterfall with the bridge halfway up. However, a lot of these photos cut off some or most of the bottom drop.

I pulled out my super wide-angle lens to capture this view of the entire thing from top to bottom. The fog and mist add an eerie ambiance to this photo that I really, really enjoy. If you look closely, you can see some people hanging out on the bridge above.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon (Photo by Tyler Penland)

The bridge partially up the falls is unique and I did hike up to it. I captured this isolation shot from the base of the falls and was patient enough to have no people in the picture.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon (Photo by Tyler Penland)

The view of the upper drop from the bridge isn’t one I often see posted, so I made the walk up the steep, paved trail to walk the bridge and see it for myself. Here, the thick mist from the upper drop makes photography extremely difficult. The increasingly thicker fog was also not doing me any favors, but the drop is still lovely in its own right.

Upper drop of Multnomah Falls, Oregon (Photo by Tyler Penland)

Unfortunately, it was time for this trip to come to an end as I had to report to work a little after lunch. I would fly back a few days later but my travels weren’t over yet…

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