Back in Oregon, we rest for a couple of days in Troutdale and revisit the Columbia Gorge before returning to Port Orford for several weeks and then heading down to Thousand Palms, California.
Today we head to Multnomah Falls, a 611-foot-tall double tiered cascade just off Interstate 84.
Millions of years ago, volcanoes, glaciers, floods, and the uplifting Cascade Mountains formed the Columbia River Gorge. Massive floods from the last Ice Age scoured out the Gorge, creating the Multnomah Falls which were literally left hanging there. (plaque at Falls)
As liquid basalt from volcanoes transformed into rock, the resulting rock formations were dependent upon their environment and cooling rate. Three types of basalt can be found in the rock layers behind the Falls.
Pillow Basalt results from the encounter of basalt flows with water which causes immediate solidification and creates “bubbles” or “pillows” of various sized rocks. (plaque at Falls)
Entablature Basalt is the result of relatively fast cooling lava that fractures into irregular patterns and joints. (plaque at Falls)
Columnar Basalt forms when lava cools slowly and fractures to create 5-6-sided crystals. It is usually found underneath entabulature basalt. (plaque at Falls) The picture below shows examples of columnar basalt behind Latourell Falls in the Columbia Gorge.
The powerful cascading waters constantly erode the softer layers of rock below and behind the Multnomah Falls, creating a plunge pool and cave. The upper tier recedes faster than the lower falls.
A short walk from the parking area leads to the best view of the Falls.
Another several hundred feet up a paved trail takes you to Benson Bridge which spans the first tier’s misty base. Looking up you can see the full 542-foot height of the top tier. Looking down you overlook the 69-foot drop of the lower tier. (oregon.com)
Benson Bridge is named for Simon Benson, a Portland businessman who owned the Falls in the early 1900s. Upon his death he bequeathed the Falls to the City of Portland which later transferred ownership to the USDA Forest Service. (oregon.com)
A trail continues past the 45-foot-long bridge for another mile to ascend an elevation of another 785 feet to reach yet another incline 100 feet above the Falls. The trail then descends to an observation deck overlooking the edge of the Falls. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
This is as close as I could get to the falling water. There’s no view of the drop, so I have to admit I was somewhat disappointed. Gee, if I had known this before trudging up a mile of 14 switchbacks, I might have reconsidered the hike! Not really…
But our plan was to hike further for another .8 miles to visit 3 more falls before turning back.
This small cascade slightly upstream from the upper tier of the Falls is called Little Multnomah.
From the observation deck you get a bird’s eye view of the Columbia River and across from it, Washington State.
As we ascend the trail from the observation deck, I am fascinated by these tree roots.
Instead of heading back and returning to Benson Bridge and the base of the Falls, we continue along the southeast trail beyond.
We encounter these examples of Entablature Basalt rocks beside us as we walk along the trail. Relatively fast cooling lava fractures into irregular patterns and joints forming entablature basalt.
We cross the scenic Multnomah Creek.
We continue hiking parallel to the Creek.
We encounter Dutchman Falls, the colloquial name for this waterfall that dashes down a wide basalt ledge of Multnomah Creek. (waterfallsnorthwest.com)
This is an interesting stretch on the trail.
After researching the name for Dutchman Falls, I discover that this precarious basalt overhang just upstream from the Falls is called Dutchman Tunnel.
Multnomah Creek washed out a large semicircular cave from underneath a lava flow. In 1915 trail builders constructed a stone-walled trail through this cave.
A plaque honoring Forest Service Ranger Albert Wiesendanger rests on a wall of the overhang.
Next, we arrive at Wiesendanger Falls named after Albert Wiesendanger who lived from 1893-1989. For more than 71 years he worked in professional forestry and fire prevention jobs that spanned a lifetime career. Albert worked 39 years with the USDA Forest Service in the Portland, Oregon regional office and in the Mt. Hood National Forest. He then “retired” to another 32 years as executive secretary for Keep Oregon Green Association, a privately funded organization with the objective of preventing people-caused fires in this timber state. (worldforestry.org)
The trail ascends onto 4 switchbacks. But first I turn around and take this picture.
Less than 10 minutes later we pass Ecola Falls.
According to waterfallsnorthwest.com, the most prominent feature of this waterfall is the ambiguity of its name. At first Ecola Falls were grouped with the downstream Wiesendanger Falls and listed as one waterfall, often called Double Falls. Later publications listed Ecola as Hidden Falls because of it’s hard to see position and the fact that the Forest Service had recently placed a plaque marking Wiesendanger Falls by name in the late 1990s. Today the Forest Service officially recognizes these falls as Ecola, the Chinook word for whale.
We continue hiking along the Multnomah Creek.
We reach another switchback and these trail signs, after hiking more than .75 miles from the top of Multnomah Falls. It’s time to turn back.
The views on the way back…
As we return to the base of Multnomah Falls, I am half tempted to tell people that the best views of the Falls are from below.
As we make our final descent back to the viewing area at the base of the Multnomah Falls, I look up and capture the blue sky peeking through this umbrella of leaves branching off its trunk hugged by moss.