I just returned from an outing with my friend Eric.  This is the second time that he and I have taken a short hike to photograph Oneonta Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.  I went in one other time with my friend Deigh and have to admit that each time in to this location brings me a new appreciation for being “out there” with friends.  It’s hard to beat being in a wonderful location with a friend who shares interest in photography.

This is not a hike one takes too casually… at least not if you go in at all prepared for what it means to hike the short distance to the falls.  The hike is probably just about a quarter mile, maybe a bit more.  Stairs lead down to creek level from the Old Scenic Highway.  Once on the creek you get to pick your own path along gravel bars or, in my case, up the channel.  There’s not really much sense in trying to keep your feet dry for too long.  About 1/3 of the distance in you are greeted by a significant log jam piled into a couple of shed-sized rocks… bigger than a car but smaller than a house.  The log jam requires me to reinforce the wisdom of having at least 3 points of contact at all times.  Many times I had 5 as I sat down to lower myself onto a perch or navigate along a log.  This is not a good place to fall.  Once over the log jam you continue to move upstream in water that is foot to shin height.  Just before the waterfall at the head of the canyon the gorge narrows and the water depth increases.  I had put my camera gear in plastic bags inside my pack… good idea.  As I watched Eric wade through with his pack raised over his head I was reminded of the saying “still waters run deep”.  In this case Eric kept descending into the pool until the water was about arm pit high.  I entered the pool and made my way across the short distance hoping that the ziplock bags did their job.  They did.  We set about shooting the falls and the gorge and left shortly after another 2 guys showed up. They told us that they were scouting a location to use to take a photo next year.  One of them explained that he was planning a shoot involving about 100 nude people in the water and planned to shut down the gorge and all the trails around there for about 4 hours sometime next summer.  I shook my head at both his idea as well as the practicality of controlling access to the area during prime tourist season.  It takes all kinds.  As we walked out we ran into a wedding party scaling the log jam and heading into the falls.  There were about 15-20 people some of whom did not appear real comfortable on the logs.  I wish I could have seen their migration across the deep water pool.  I’m betting that will be one of the stories at the reception later today.   Maybe the mass of people gave the nude shooter a dose of what was to come if he actually goes through with the shoot.

A couple of images may help appreciate this rather spectacular gorge.  I expect I’ll be in here again some day but I can be safe saying that it will always be during low flow and on a warm day.  Getting to the falls is certainly a refreshing experience.

Lower Oneonta Falls
Lower Oneonta Falls
Oneonta Gorge looking north
Oneonta Gorge looking north

The deep pool area is just past the first spanning log in the photo immediately above.  That small bit of bright area past the log is a place that makes you appreciate a set of dry clothes back at your car!



3 thoughts on “Refreshing

  1. Very nice Bruce – sounds like you had a nice time in there and got out before it got too crazy. I sure remember our trip in there – a beautiful spot that was fun to share with you.

  2. Remembering Deigh’s discussion, as well as yours right here, reconfirms for me that I’m no Art Wolfe (not just in terms of expertise, but dedication, as well!). It’s a very pretty spot, I must admit, but it sounds treacherous getting there! I’d recommend you consider putting in a zip-line…

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