Have you ever wanted to visit and take the photos of that iconic bridge and its waterfalls running behind and under? I am talking about Multnomah Falls and its bridge, which are one of the most recognizable waterfalls in the world. I had wanted to visit the falls for many years, and when the opportunity came along, I had to include that in my road trip itinerary.

Back in late June through early July, I took a long photography road trip. This is Part 5 of the Road Trip series, and if you haven’t checked out the photos that I took while visiting Mono Lake and, Lake Tahoe, Lassen Volcanic, and/or Crater Lake, click hereherehere and here to take a look. You won’t be disappointed.

ON MY WAY TO  COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE

When I was working on the itinerary, I noticed that Columbia River Gorge, specifically Multnomah Falls wasn’t too far off of US-97 when I’d be coming from Crater Lake.

I had always wanted to visit the falls. So, I thought to myself, ‘Why not?’ And, it was included in my itinerary.

As I was getting close to Canada, I decided to buy some gear for my backpacking trip before crossing the border. Just in case I had to return some of them.

I looked for the REI locations outside of Portland. I just didn’t want to drive into the city and deal with the traffic unless it was necessary and found one in Tigard.

ENJOY IT WHILE IT LASTS

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The road that you take to the next trip destination can be very remote and more beautiful. The forest waking up in the sun in the early morning can literally pulls you over to the side of the road. Soak it in. Take your time. It is the journey that matters. Not the destination. In the end it will be all forgotten. Enjoy it while it lasts.

While driving through the mountain range near Mt. Hood, I couldn’t help but noticing the amazing forests. Now I was getting immersed in this Pacific Northwest climate where there’s a lot of humidity in the air and the water is abundant. Such lushness of the forests fascinates me probably because I mostly hike in the drought-struck Southern California.

It was early, so the sun was still rising, which created such a lovely sight like the photo above. I immediately pulled over and got out of the car with my camera. It was one of those moments where it just felt right. It was quite pleasing to look at and I just couldn’t pass it up.

I lingered for a few more minutes, soaking in the rich sensation of such lush forest.

MULTNOMAH FALLS 

As I stated above, the Multnomah bridge and its two-tier waterfalls are iconic. Many may not know the falls by its name, but once they see it, they immediately recognize it.

And I wanted to see it in person.

MOST BEAUTIFUL

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The word Wahkeena of Wahkeena Falls means something close to ‘most beautiful,’ a Native Indian phrase transliterated, reportedly, from the Yakama tribe. Its cascading flow was quite vigorous, energetic… While wondering if what they saw was soothing and even appeasing instead, I realized that it was time to hit the trail.

Since I was driving east on Historic Columbia River Highway, I arrived at Wahkeena Falls first. And there’s a trail along the highway that goes to Multnomah Falls. It goes through the forest with a view of the highway and occasional glimpses of Columbia River. Of course, people park their cars in the parking lot of Multnomah Falls and walk up to the falls in less than a minute, too. I opted to walk.

The upper Wahkeena Fall was closed off for restoration purposes. Too bad. I was really looking forward to it. Instead, I had to just settle with the lower Wahkeena Falls.

The water cascading down the stream was quite impressive. Vigor was the word that came to mind.

And yet the Indians thought it was beautiful. In fact, the name meant something along the line of ‘most beautiful.’

Yes it was. But I liked vigor better…

THERE WAS A TIME WHEN…

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There was a time when there was no bridge. And then there was a time when a bowstring-truss timber bridge was built. And then there was a time when it was reinforced. And then there was a time when a concrete bridge was built. That was 102 years ago. And we still walk on it to cross the lower cascade.

After a bit of walk on the trail, I arrived at Multnomah Falls. As expected, there were tourists although it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

As any photographer would, I sought for the best spot. Although it wasn’t THE best spot, it didn’t take long for a guy who held the second best spot to leave.

And here when I say the ‘best spot,’ it is the spot where one would see both streaks of the waterfalls lining up perfectly with the bridge in the middle.

As it is often the case, when there are people walking by or cars passing by, it could get very tricky and challenging to take photos. And that was exactly what was going on on the bridge. Not a whole lot of tourists stood idle for long or leaned on the bridge parapet looking out, but the bridge didn’t stay cleared for long either. There were always people on the bridge.

Unless I took really long exposure shots… like 30 minutes or longer… to blur them all out into thin air, so to speak. But there was the waterfalls. And I only had one 10-stop ND filter.

I decided to stack them and took multiple shots. And it came out okay, I think. Not the best Multnomah Falls photo I took, but it gave me one more reason to stick around.

The sun was setting, so I decided to come back to Multnomah Falls for night photography after dinner.

LITTLE HAVEN FOR FAIRIES TO COME OUT AND PLAY

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The stars whirled around the sky. The lights lit up this little hideaway. This little haven for fairies to come out and play. The night was young. The only audience waiting for the magical night spectacle was just myself.

When I went back to Multnomah Falls, there was no one around.

And there was a strong light directly pointing at the falls from below the observation area. At first I thought it was too bright to work with, but I also saw some timid lights coming through from the the highway, so I decide to give it a shot.

With the star trails in the sky, I thought that Multnomah Falls became a magical shelter that would accommodate the fairies. If I only could stay up so late to catch a sight of them and watch them play…

It was getting late, and I decided to get some sleep for an early wake up call.

IF YOU GET UP EARLY ENOUGH…

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If you get up enough, you can keep the entire place to yourself. Such an overcast morning though… The thick blanket of clouds completely blotted out the sun. Ah, didn’t I miss this typical Pacific Northwest weather…? What was the word associated with the PNW climate? That’s right. Lush… So much green… So much water… Only if I could bring some of it back to SoCal with me…

When I got back to Multnomah Falls, there was a guy already taking his early morning shots. That was early! And he was just wrapping up and letting me have the ‘best spot.’

While we were exchanging a few words, he told me that he was heading to Oneonta Gorge. I told him that I was heading there too. He replied,

I will see you there then.

I was glad that no one was on the Multnomah Falls bridge. In fact, there was no one else around after the guy was gone.

Well, at least for a few minutes…

Then two guys with cameras showed up. One of the them set up his camera right next to me, as in…. one of the legs of my tripod was literally less than 1/4 inch away from one of the legs of his.

I thought to myself that it was exactly what it must’ve been like to shoot the sunrise at the Arches

sample-the-arch-shoot-crowd
Credit: CNN The Best of USA Travel – American Southwest: How to get those iconic photos – http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/04/travel/gallery/utah-photography/
Credit: Fall Road Trip - https://fallroadtrip.wordpress.com/page/3/
Credit: Fall Road Trip – https://fallroadtrip.wordpress.com/page/3/

No one wants to kick those tripods by accident.

The guy standing next to me, more of an outgoing type of guy than the other, told me that they drove from Bend, Oregon.

I didn’t ask how long it took, but based on what time they arrived at Multnomah Falls, they must’ve left at around 2 or 2:30 am. So, how disappointing it might have been when they realized that they didn’t get the best spot. But they seemed to have got eased once they started taking photos.

One of them was doing vertical panorama in HDR.

Oh, and he had one of those X-Rite Color Checker Passports. Maybe one day I will find that useful.

IF YOU INSIST

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Sometimes you don’t have to go for a hike to catch an awesome waterfall. That’s what you see at Horsetail Falls. But if you insist, you can hike up to Ponytail Falls. Either you will get a great photography opportunity to capture the waterfalls. Well, don’t forget to bring water shoes if you insist on going into the pond…

On my way to Oneonta Gorge, I made a quick stop at Horsetail Falls. To me it did look like a horsetail, but some may argue it doesn’t. I thought it was amusing to know that there was another waterfalls, which was called Ponytail Falls.

My mind was made up to spend time at the gorge for long exposure and all, so I didn’t hike up to Ponytail Falls.

WHO PHOTOGRAPHED ONEONTA GORGE FOR THE FIRST TIME?

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Who would’ve known that the gorge was named after a town called Oneonta in New York, where Carleton Eugene Watkins came from. He photographed it for the first time, back in 1849 when he traveled to California during the Gold Rush. The incredible part of the story is that he knew nothing about photography before moving 3,000 miles across the country,, and yet, thanks to his great photos of the Yosemite Valley, US Congress made the decision to preserve Yosemite as a national park. Sadly he lost his sight in the 1890s. His last commission was from Phoebe Hearst, mother of William Randolph Hearst, who built the nation’s largest newspaper chain, which then became the subject of the movie Citizen Kane, which Orson Wells co-wrote and won the Academy Awards for Best Screenplay with Herman Jacob Mankiewicz, who worked on the Wizard of Oz but that never got the credit for.

Oneonta Gorge may not be as famous as Multnomah Falls, but those who recognize the gorge know how fascinating it looks. This mossy narrow creek that stretches less than 2 miles one way fills itself with high or low water. Depending on the season, of course, but certainly some parts were deeper than I expected when I was there.

There was a huge logjam not too far from Oneonta Gorge Creek Bridge, where the trail began, indicating that the water was quite high at some point. Now the water just ran through the cracks and the openings in the piled up logs and rubbles.

I wished I had brought my Keen water shoes. Instead I was hiking in my Salomon boots. There was calf deep water everywhere. Since I would not have had time to dry them if I got them wet (I would be backpacking in those boots in less than 48 hours), I couldn’t go really far deep in the gorge although part of me really wanted to reach Triple Falls at the end of the gorge.

Then, the guy whom I had met at Multnomah Falls earlier was returning from the end and told me that the water was almost waist deep near the waterfalls!

Ugh…

And then he asked me if I wanted to see the shots of the waterfalls that he took to see if it was worth getting my boots wet for! When he produced his camera (it was a Nikon DSLR), I noticed that he kept it in the Sea to Summit dry bag inside his pack. I thought to myself,

Oh, this guy is really prepared…

I did look at them. Very nice shots. But they were not mind-blowingly amazing for me to risk my boots. I mean, the shots were great but not the waterfalls…

I said thank you, and he said good bye and took off.

Two college girls showed up, and one of them had water shoes on. The other girl was wearing sneackers and didn’t mind getting them wet. Of course, they weren’t carrying any heavy and expensive camera gear either. They soon went out of sight as moving way ahead of me.

I took my time capturing the beauty of the mossy chasm. It was to me the ultimate definition of lushness. The Pacific Northwest climate. I knew I’d be missing it very much when I go back home.

CODA

My stay at Columbia River Gorge was quite brief although I spent some time at Multnomah Falls, and I was rather reluctant to leave for Banff. I felt like it wasn’t even remotely enough to see and check out all the falls.

I gotta admit that it wasn’t one of the places where I planned to spend at least a couple of nights that would’ve resulted in a countless amount of photos. But, it was still good enough for me to taste a little bit of the typical Pacific Northwest climate. And I loved it.

It wasn’t my first time enjoying the climate. I had a taste of it back when I was backpacking the Lost Coast Trail. Yes, in California! If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend the post.

Also, I actually lived in Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia for a few years. Stanley Park was lovely in summer when it was sunny as well as in winter when it was murky and gloomy. And in spite of all the rain that I had in many winters while living there, I still have fond memories of riding my bike in the rain.

If I only could bring some of that abundant amount of water to Southern California…

Have you been to Columbia River Gorge? What is your favorite spot(s) to visit? Have you hiked Oneonta Gorge? All the way to the end? Did you like Multnomah Falls? Are there other waterfalls in the area that are not as popular as Multnomah but you think people should check out?

Thanks for reading.

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