Herman Creek, OR

Herman Creek, Oregon
4.5 miles above hwy – E.F. Herman to PCT/Hwy
March, 2013

Nestled in the hills south of Cascade Locks, Herman creek meanders down the hill with a couple dramatic features. From Herman Creek Campground the trail climbs upstream, steeply, crossing the PCT then following the ridgeline up toward the East Fork.

We are now living in a time where knowledge is a click away. Any watershed can be inspected on Google Earth and any waterfall can be seen instantly in on-line photo galleries. Many of the waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge can be viewed from the historical highway on the Oregon side and within short hikes along hwy 14 on the Washington side. Many of the guidebooks acknowledge around 75 waterfalls in the gorge, however with the right gear and planning there are a few hundred well within reach, most require a little extra effort to see. Herman creek appeared to be a worthy expedition. The hiking stories and photos on-line were intriguing to say the least. Like the other creeks in this area, Herman displays a rich northwest rainforest character sitting in the crosshairs of the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River Gorge.

Luke Spencer had been checking on the Herman Creek logistics for some time now with multiple scouting trips into the canyon in search of the waterfalls. A little over 4 miles up Herman creek it splits into the East and West Forks. On March 9, 2013 we decided to hike in and put-in on the waterfalls on the East Fork and continue down to take-out just above I84. Our crew came together, Brett Barton, Keel Brightman, Willie Illingsworth, Ryan Young, Luke and myself. We started hiking around 9am up the steep trail out of the campground. After about an hour the trail leveled off a little and headed deeper into the valley. At this point the canyon was closing in tighter, basalt walls rose higher and mini waterfalls poured from the cliffs above. It has a very close character to it’s larger sister drainage, Eagle Creek.

We arrived at the top of the ridge which would drop us into the East Fork of Herman. Willie kept hiking down the hill while we stopped to eat and get ready. On our way down we reached the creek and decided to head downstream on the right bank. At this point we were off any trail and moving slow through the thick vegetation. Finally, we arrived at the first set of fall and started scouting. The top drop had some wood very close to the landing and the second was perfectly clean and …perfect. We re-grouped and found out that Ryan Young had forgotten his spray skirt and had to hike out and no one had seen Willie since the top of the hill. After we put on all of our gear and gave a final scout on the falls we prepared to start down the creek when Willie appeared above the top falls.

Willie gave a quick scout on the upper falls and ran it without incident. Luke dropped in and led the way down the bottom falls. We all followed and headed down to our first portage.

Brett giving Keel a hand with the seal-launch in...
The seal-launch in…
Brett Barton paddling on the E.F. of Herman


A log jam blocked another small falls just before the confluence. We had to get creative and slide down one of the logs into the pool and swim across the pool in order to portage around the log jam.

Luke Spencer working out the last drop on the E.F. of Herman

After the confluence we paddled through countless class III boulder gardens with wood along the sides of the creek. We only had one wood portage before the next set of falls, about halfway down Herman’s main stem.

This horizon line was a beautiful sight, a mini gorge with two waterfalls stepping down through black basalt ledges and cutting a hallway around the corner through vertical walls. Luke, followed close by Willie, ran this set of falls while the rest of us were stunned by the beauty. Like all the other waterfalls in the area this one revealed a unique and exquisite beauty that was locked further out of sight than most.

Luke Spencer testing out Herman's main gorge
Luke Spencer testing out Herman’s main gorge
Willie rolling off the second tier
Willie rolling off the second tier

We proceeded around the corner to the final pinch in the canyon. An eight foot falls poured out into an emerald pool and filtered around the corner bringing the creek back to a tame descent. The rest of the creek down to the PCT Bridge was read and run class III. Willie and I took out at the bridge and hiked down to the campground while the rest of the crew paddled down to the hwy. It took way too long for the rest of the crew to show up at the take out and when they finally arrived they reported multiple log portages in that section. If you take-out at the PCT Bridge you will only have one or two log portages from the East fork down.

Check out PDX River Explorers for more information on Herman Creek

2 thoughts on “Herman Creek, OR”

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