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October 15, 2009

 

SILVER FALLS

 

South Falls

South Falls

Even before the sun had broke the horizon Friday October 2nd, I was driving north on Interstate 5, towards Silver Falls. As the first colors began to warm the sky I could see wispy patches of fog hugging the valley floor. A beautiful sunrise painted the sky and tinted the patches of fog and had fade into morning light by the time I reached Salem, Oregon. From there it was a 30 minute drive east up into the foot hills of the cascade. Most of the way it is rolling hills and farm country. Wine grapes, grass seed along with sheep and cattle ranches line the road and until you get a couple miles from the park this doesn’t look like the kind of place you would find waterfalls.

 The falls tumble over thick basalt lava flows resting on softer, older rock. The softer layers beneath the basalt eroded over time and created natural pathways behind several of the falls. The Trail of Ten Falls follows both North and South Silver Creek and they converge just below Lower South Falls. This 8-mile trail connects up the series of 10 waterfalls that lie in the deep cool canyon.

I reached the gate at South Falls right at 8:00 am and the ranger was just opening the gate to the park. It was sunny, clear and about 45 degree so I wore a light jacket to keep the chill off for the first hour or so.

 The trail from the parking lot passes the historic South Falls Lodge. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA),built the South Falls Lodge in the 1930s. Once used as a restaurant, diners ate on tables and chairs built from only two myrtle trees. The tables inside the lodge today are among the originals. The lodge and 10 surrounding acres are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Silver Falls Lodge

Silver Falls Lodge

It’s only a short distance from the lodge to the view point on the rim above South Falls. As always it a spectacular view of the 177 foot falls and you can see the trail that goes behind the falls. The trail around the falls is always interesting as your perspective changes as you walk behind it. On the east side there is a cave with a bench to sit and take in both the sights and sounds. This is the lowest water level I’ve seen in many years. I usually come here in mid May with the wild flowers are in bloom and the creeks are still roaring with spring snowmelt.

South Falls View From Trail

South Falls View From Trail

South Falls Cave

South Falls Cave

From South fall I took the trail along the creek to the north. The canyon is beautiful in the early stages of fall colors.

Path along Silver Creek

Path along Silver Creek

Old Ceder Stump

Old Ceder Stump

It’s only a little over a half mile to Lower South Falls and as you approach on the west side of the creek there are multiple stair cases that descend to the bottom of the 93 foot falls. The trail goes behind this falls too and there is a rock wall that looks so natural you can hardly see it in the pictures.   

 

Lower South Falls - From West

Lower South Falls - From West

Behind Lower South Falls

Behind Lower South Falls

Lower South Falls - From East

Lower South Falls - From East

Not far below Lower South Falls you come to a fork in the trail. The trail going to the east goes up on the ridge and follows it back to the Lodge. I continue along the canyon trail and crosses a series of small bridges.

One of Many Bridges

One of Many Bridges

A mile or so later the trail descends into the canyon to a bridge crossing there. It’s not too much further before you come to Lower North Falls. The water level in North Silver Creek is very low and there are only a few streams of water coming over this 30 foot falls. This one is noted for the large logs that crisscross it.

Lower North Falls

Lower North Falls

Just above Lower North Falls a trail goes off to the west up a small creek to Double Falls. It’s only about a hundred yard up to the falls but to my disappointment there is only and few drops dripping over the rocks. Well, so much for that and I know it’s not worth the half mile walk up to Winter Falls, that just above Middle North Falls.

It was a pleasant walk along the creek and it was warming enough to take off my jacket by the time I got to the deck that overlooks the 27 foot Drake Falls. This is the smallest of the 10 falls and you have to get out to the end of the observations deck to be able to see it.

Drake Falls

Drake Falls

Another half mile or so up the trail I come to Middle North Falls. The 106 foot was down to a single stream instead of the broad wide falls I see in the spring. A short side trail run over to and behind it and it too has a cave on the far side.

Middle North Falls - Thru the Trees

Middle North Falls - Thru the Trees

Middle North Falls - From West

Middle North Falls - From West

Middle North Falls - From East

Middle North Falls - From East

On the rocks around the fall were some very cool orange lichens. I saw a few on the earlier fall but not as extensive and this one.

Orange Lichens on Rocks

Orange Lichens on Rocks

I took a little side trail down a steep salmon berry covered slope to the rocks below the falls to get a different view of it. The spray from the falls may twinkles in the air as the morning sun was just beginning to shine on the top of the falls. I had second thoughts about this as I fought my way back up to the trail through the thick brush.

Middle North Falls - From the Rocks Below the Falls

Middle North Falls - From the Rocks Below the Falls

Back on the trail again I continued up North Silver Creek heading for North Falls. I didn’t bother to go up to Winter Falls and the creek coming into North Silver Creek was dry. I made a quick stop by Twin Falls which no longer had a twin and there wasn’t much you could see. The low water left a single stream in a deep crack that was hardly visible.

It is another mile or so from there to North Falls. This 136 foot falls has a deep cave eroded out a layer of ashy soil under the thick basalt upper layer. I always love the walk behind this falls as the sound of the fall echoes in the cave and change tones as you move around. It’s a perfect spot to take a break and just take it all in.

 

North Falls

North Falls

Inside North Falls Cave

Inside North Falls Cave

The Canyon from North Falls Cave

The Canyon from North Falls Cave

The road and the north parking lot is only about a quarter mile from North Falls. But from the falls, its a climb up a steep stairs and then a squeeze under so rocks that the trail skirts along the steep face of the canyon to get there.

 

North Falls Stairs

North Falls Stairs

The Squeeze about North Falls

The Squeeze about North Falls

 

From the road and North Parking lot Upper North falls is only about a half mile more. The trail ends at this 65 foot falls. 

Upper North Falls

Upper North Falls

Upper North Falls From the Creek Bed

Upper North Falls From the Creek Bed

By now I’m 7miles or more from my car. Ahh but it another beautiful hike back the way I came. I put my camera away so I can keep moving it’s an easy, under-two hour, hike back. What a beautiful place and a beautiful day.

Enjoy!

Dennis

Gold Leaves Heart