Elowah Falls | Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Elowah Falls

Elowah Falls was the last waterfall we decided to see before leaving the Columbia River Gorge to head to a different part of the state. I can’t believe we were lucky enough to explore it last, because it ended up being my favorite waterfall.

The hike was longer than a lot of other waterfall hikes along the gorge, but still short when it comes to hikes, and pretty easy. As we rounded our last switchback we could finally see an opening and hear the falls. A few steps later, we saw the falls from behind the thinning trees and instantly knew that we’d be there longer than we had planned for. It was like a dream land, magical and serene, like something in Lord of the Rings. The waterfall and lush greenery themselves seemed like the perfect allegoric story: beauty overcoming adversity.

At 213 feet, Elowah Falls is higher than Niagara Falls. Since the base of the falls were quite easy to get near, Elowah Falls seemed even taller. I feel like I am always saying this, but photos don’t do it justice. In some photos, it seems like these falls aren’t that tall at all. But look in the above photo. Can you see Mark to the left of the falls? Hopefully that puts it into perspective.

I could explore here for hours, and the inner child in me was going crazy imagining scenarios in which to play pretend. We were able to play quite a bit, and Mark even got under the falls, as they weren’t very strong this time of year (August).

Almost all of my senses were completely satisfied being here, and some were even overwhelmed (but in a good way). Elowah Falls isn’t frequently visited, so if you do go, at some point you will probably have the falls all to yourself (we did but for about 5 minutes). No buzzing of tourists here, just the serene silence punctuated by the splashing of water on rock.

It was beyond beautiful. I didn’t want to leave.

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Again, do you see Mark in the above photo to the left of the falls? He’s so small compared to the tower that is Elowah Falls!

[All photos were taken in August 2014.]

upper oneonta falls | columbia river gorge, oregon

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If you only had time to do either Oneonta Gorge or hike up to Upper Oneonta Falls, I’d choose Oneonta Gorge. But if you DO have time, do them both. We had no idea what we’d get to see when we started off on our easy upper falls hike.

We first came up to the falls (which aren’t anything compared to what we had seen already), and to the left of the bridge that crossed the creek we saw a steep drop to the brook below. There was rope tied to the tree at the top of the muddy drop, undoubtably put there by people who wanted to get to the creek without breaking a limb. There were knots tied all along the rope so you could take hold of it easier while shimmying yourself down the steep trail (if you can even call it a trail). It wasn’t too hard at all; I lost my balance a couple of times, but the rope held me, and all that happened was that I got dirty. (By the way, the photos don’t do it justice; it is MUCH steeper than it looks!)

After going down the drop with aid of the rope, we found ourselves right by the clear creek. We followed it to the left, waded in the water and climbed over some old tree limbs and logs and found ourselves at the top of the Lower Oneonta Falls, staring straight into Oneonta Gorge from 100 ft up.

It was spectacular and we weren’t prepared for it; we had no idea we were even that close to the drop off that forms the lower falls.

We started at the beauty of the gorge for a while, waved and yelled to some people at the bottom of the falls, and quietly laughed at others making their way up the gorge and losing their balance in the creek’s waist-deep waters.

We both were giddy about what we’d found without planning to find, and stayed there longer than we anticipated. Once again, photos just don’t do it justice from this high up. When you’re in the gorge, you feel small; when you’re above the gorge, you feel like a conqueror.

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We loved getting to see Oneonta Gorge from two perspectives. It was priceless.

[All photos were taken in August 2014.]


Visiting Oneonta Gorge was one of my favorite parts of the Columbia River Gorge area. Oneonta Gorge is a smaller gorge that has massive rock walls on each side of Oneonta Creek and leads straight to the Lower Oneonta Falls.

The high walls of Oneonta Gorge set a dramatic scene and makes it seem as though you’re the lead in a movie about a gallant quest and you’re not sure what’s at the end or how long you’ll be trekking under this towering canopy. It also reminds me of the trench in Finding Nemo that Marlin and Dory were supposed to “swim through, not over.”

I remember seeing photos of Oneonta Gorge and thinking that I had to go. I’m so glad we were able to.

Oneonta Gorge is very easy to get to, as it is right off the Historic Columbia River Highway. You’ll find the parking right where gps tells you to go, and then after a short walk down the road you’ll see the opening. Can’t miss it. But be prepared to get wet, and know that the water is COLD! While most of the Oneonta Creek is ankle deep or less, it does get very high in some places – sometimes as high as your chest. Wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet, and wear bugspray. The hike isn’t long – only 1 mile out and back – with the falls at the dead end of the gorge.

Somehow, Mark was able to navigate himself across the rocks right above the high water so he wouldn’t get our camera equipment wet and could take photos of the falls right after the deep part. I have no idea how I was able to trust him not to with the equipment, but I’m glad I did!

Oneonta Gorge has so many fun obstacles, including cold water, fallen trees, log traffic jams, rocks, and more. I can’t stress enough how beautiful and fun this place was. I’d go over and over if I could.

Stay tuned for photos of the Upper Oneonta Falls, and a great view of the Oneonta Gorge from the top of the Lower Oneonta Falls!

[All photos were taken in August 2014.]