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Chasing Waterfalls and Exploring the Oneonta Gorge

Updated on March 27, 2013
A markerOneonta Gorge, Oregon -
Oneonta Gorge, Mt. Hood National Forest, Hstoric Columbia River Highway, Cascade Locks, OR 97014, US
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Getting Lost in the Columbia River Gorge...

This last weekend, my friend and I made the three plus hour drive down to Portland from Seattle to see if we could get some great waterfall pictures. I had never been exploring in the Columbia River Gorge area much, just traveled through on occasion. Recently, I've been trying to get more experience with my new hobby - photography - and I was hoping to learn a little bit about taking photos of waterfalls and getting crisp moving water shots, which I had not done before.

The first stop of the day was at Bridal Veil Falls Campground. It was around 8 am and the air was moist with a mist that I suspect was some kind of rain. The hike to Bridal Veil Falls was short, around .8 miles, so it only took minutes to get from the car to the falls with my gear. I'll share the short list of gear I used on this trip a little later. This waterfall was quite the sight, cascading down into a blue/green pool perched on the top of yet another hill. Sadly, the combination coming off of the waterfall and the mist in the air made it nearly impossible to get a clear shot that I liked of Bridal Veil Falls, despite my numerous attempts to dry off my lens. After nearly giving up all hope, I did manage to get a nice shot looking up at the pool that the falls poured into.

Bridal Veil Falls -
Bridal Veil Falls -
Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls | Source

Multnomah Falls

Next stop was Multnomah Falls where, again, the weather did not permit great photos. However, I did manage to get a great shot of a little waterfall off of the Columbia River Scenic Hwy between our first two disappointing locations. Multnomah Falls is probably the most well known waterfall in the area. There have been many pictures shot of the great little footbridge that crosses between the waterfall and the highway, you may have seen this shot before?

Latourell Falls

If had to chose, I would say that this was my favorite waterfall that was discovered during the course of the trip. Only a short hike from the parking area, Latourell Falls cascaded gently down from its high peak atop a very interesting rock formation which featured hundreds of massive basalt columns. Luckily for my friend and I, the rail let up for a few minutes while we were here and we ended up with some decent photographs of this waterfall. It poured into a nice little creek before the water made its way down to join the rest of these falls at the Columbia River (which was not a far journey from where this was shot). Of all the stops made on the Columbia River Historic Hwy, Latourell and Multnomah Falls had to be the most awe inspiring and fun to photograph (or attempt to photograph in some cases). I can't wait to go back when the weather is dryer and the foliage is in full bloom!

Latourell Falls near the Oneonta Gorge -
Latourell Falls near the Oneonta Gorge -

Fairy Falls

A little further down the road, we found Fairy Falls Campground. Getting to this waterfall proved to be a bit of an uphill battle, literally. The hike was listed as 1.8 miles but with the steep elevation it seemed more like 2.8 miles. OK maybe I'm exaggerating, but the hike was steep. There were lots of switchbacks and steep corners. It was really amazing to see how green the moss was on the flat rock walls surrounding the trail. Such a bright green it was almost an electric yellow! Well, once we reached the top the pristine falls made the trip worth the hike. That is also about when the rain decided to cease for a few glorious minutes!

Fairy Falls -
Fairy Falls -

My Gear:

- Nikon D5200 DSLR Camera
- Nikkor 16mm s f/2.8 Fisheye Lens
- Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens
- Columbia water-proof shell
- Hodgman chest waders

Oneonta Gorge

The final stop was sort of the coup de gras of the trip, the final and by far the most inaccessible and challenging location of the day. After arming ourselves with full-on chest waders, waterproof jackets w/ hoods, and our gear, we began our trek deep into the Oneonta Gorge. I'll begin by saying that this hike is highly recommended to be done in the more milder months when the weather is dryer and the water flow is but a trickle. On this day this was not the case. After scrambling over a massive log jam that guarded the entrance of the gorge like an ogre standing in the entrance to a forbidden cave, we trudged through near chest-deep water all while carrying our camera gear cinched up high on our backs. At one point the gorge narrowed to a car's length wide, making the stream of water very deep (I'd guess around 12-15 ft). The only way past this murky pool was to carefully boulder across a rock formation on the side of the gorge. The rocks were slippery and the holds flat out sucked. But, eventually we popped out at the waterfall which lies at the very end of the narrow gorge.

Peeking back into Oneonta Gorge -
Peeking back into Oneonta Gorge -

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What an Adventure!

Exploring the Oneonta gorge and the surrounding waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge made for quite a weekend. I would recommend checking out this wonderful place to anybody in the Pacific Northwest interested in hiking, camping, photography, or just getting outdoors. Its always a nice break to get some fresh air without the sounds of people, phones, computers, etc. Places like this are usually where the most peaceful of moments are found! It was truly serene and a welcomed change of pace. I would, however, recommend that anyone visiting the Columbia River Gorge area should wait until the Spring, Summer, or Autumn months are upon us. The experience would have been even better (especially from a photographic standpoint) if there had been less rain and a weaker water flow. Also, all the foliage in the area would be quite a sight in these seasons.

Come Explore With Me!

If you like this HUB and want to find out more about my Adventures in Photography, please check out my blog -


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    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Oh my goodness your pictures are exquisite! It has been too many years since I've been out west and really must make the trip soon.

    • wsupaul88 profile image

      wsupaul88 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Peggy W - Thank you so much! I really enjoyed the trip and plan on returning when the weather gets warmer.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This is such a beautiful area of the country! You live a lot closer than we do so can enjoy these sites more often and take your time in exploring. Will add a link from this hub to mine titled Columbia River Gorge in Oregon - Numerous Waterfalls & Beautiful Scenery. That is surely is!...beautiful! Up votes and will share.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great pictures of an area I know very well. Well done!