Category Archives: First Descents

Middle Bridal Veil Falls, Oregon – ‘Cable Choke Falls’

On Feb. 13th I came across a photo on-line that looked very interesting. A large falls, not far away which looked very runnable in the photos. I sent out an email to Luke Spencer titled “Why have we not looked at this?” The subject of the message was Middle Bridal Veil Falls. Only a half mile off the historic highway, it is one of the lesser known waterfall tourist attractions. That fact alone makes it more intriguing and seemingly more untouched.

Middle Bridal Veil Falls is located near the end of a narrow canyon about a half mile up from the Historic Highway on Bridal Veil Creek. It has a trail up to the base of the falls and access up Palmer Rd. to the top of the canyon. If you want to be in the pool below it then you have to hike up the creek from the bottom and not the rd. Much like the Lower Bridal Veil Falls this one has remnants of the old logging operation that went on through this creek bed in the late 1800’s up to 1937 when the mill burned.

As curious waterfall hunters do, Brett Barton and I set out on foot heading up the creek to find the falls.

Middle Bridal Veil Falls
Middle Bridal Veil Falls
Scouting the top of the falls
Scouting the top of the falls

It looked great, top to bottom, we just couldn’t see the face of the falls, head-on, or the pool up close and we were out of time for the day. So I sent out a few messages and Friday Feb. 19th we met just after a few days of rain. The creek was the same level as the previous scout and soon we were all facing the falls and all of it’s hidden beauty. This angle showed some of the hidden concerns of running the falls. Brett, Tony, Luke, Andrew, Keel and I inspected the face of the falls as close as we could. On the previous trip we saw a large cable draped from the lip of the falls to the opposite ridge. On this trip we saw a cable that had been severed and is now hanging down the center of the falls. Concerns about debris in the pool complicated matters and most of us decide we wanted to come back at lower flows to inspect the pool closer. Tony, however liked it as is and we decided to gear up and go up to the lip of the falls.

Middle Bridal Veil from the bottom
Middle Bridal Veil from the bottom
Second scout - concern with the cable in the falls.
Second scout – concern with the cable in the falls.

 

Tony at his last view point before testing the falls
Tony at his last view point before testing the falls

The put-in had its own challenges as well. It was a steep hike down using ropes and as we scanned for a place to secure a boat for a put-in we were forced to use a tiny eddy not far from the lip of the drop. Tony was still interested so we pushed the boat up to the river wide log and carefully placed the boat on the other side so he could drop in. It is an intimidating put-in this close to the lip of the falls, sitting in a moving eddy that drifts into the current and straight off the jagged lip of the falls. Tony got ready, pulled out of the eddy moving right, rolled off the lip and went into his tuck. Seconds later he was looking back up at the falls with a big smile. Despite the shallow looking features at the lip, he said he didn’t touch anything but water on his line. In the parking lot before we all left Tony dubbed the falls ‘Cable Choke’.

Tony Skirv dropping in for the first time
Tony Skirv dropping in for the first time

On March 7, Brett, Keel, and I returned with Nate and Heather Herbeck, Trevor Sheehan, and Johnny Ott to attempt the falls again. After meeting the cloudy skies cleared and we had a little sunshine to start the day. Half of us went to the top while the others started the slow hike upstream. The hike down is steep with loose rocks here and there. I had to set my boat down and work my way to the closest tree to the water, still about 30ft. off the water. Then I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, an unexpected loose rock tumbling and gaining speed down the hill up to my right.  It crashed into the side of my boat and sent my  boat and paddle launching off the cliff and into the creek below me. Everything was collected quickly and we focused on the task at hand.

Climbing down to the put-in...
One last look before dropping in…

Once we were at the lip of the falls we wasted no time. The falls and the line looked better than ever and I got in my boat with Trevor’s help, took a minute to clear my head and paddled out of the back of the eddy. The line felt great, read and run class 3 lip straight into free fall… to re-connect to landing. At the top Brett held Trevor’s boat while he got ready. Trevor came off with a nice line and landing resurfacing downstream of the landing zone. We celebrated at the bottom and headed back to the cars. Another successful day in the land of waterfalls here in the beautiful Columbia Gorge.

The put-in...
The put-in…
My line, falling fast...
My line, falling fast…

* Editor’s note; The main Tourist attraction “Lower Bridal Veil Falls” just off the historic Highway has two tiers (Two parts) to it so I have always called the upper tier “Upper Bridal Veil” and the lower tier “Lower Bridal Veil”. In actuality, they are both considered “Lower Bridal Veil Falls”. Cable Choke is technically “Middle Bridal Veil Falls” and “Upper Bridal Veil Falls is another impressive waterfall further upstream than the Middle Falls.

There has been a proposal for a trail to be built (Details Here) that will allow easier access upstream. For now if you want to reach Middle Bridal Veil Falls hike upstream at water level until you reach the base of the falls, If you want to go higher up the creek it’s easier to take Palmer Rd up the creek to scout.

Log Flume downstream of Middle Bridal Veil Falls.
Log Flume downstream of Middle Bridal Veil Falls.

Other whitewater nearby Middle Bridal Veil Falls

Lower Bridal Veil Falls

Eagle Creek

Herman Creek

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

It’s only a matter of time… but which one?

With the right conditions and athletes anything is possible. The Columbia River Gorge continues to unveil it’s hidden and majestic falls. Kayakers have been in search of runnable whitewater and the heights of the falls have grown and grown over the years.

For over a decade I have been paddling, scouting, hiking and crawling through the creeks of the Columbia River Gorge and about 7 years ago I made a top ten list of the runnable and un-run waterfalls left in the Gorge and greater area. Erik Boomer recently pushed his imagination on Tanner Creek, knocking off Wahclella Falls —-CLICK HERE to see. That one was on my list at the time as was Palouse Falls (After I scouted it in 2007, which at the time seemed unbelievable, but somehow realistic for the right paddler). Well, Tyler Bradt put that one to the test and knocked it off the un-run list and the rest is history…

The technicality of the falls, access, and the height are factors that keep them from being run, but for those who look for these type of runnable waterfalls in a kayak it’s only a matter of time. Here is a look at a couple runnable waterfalls that are still on the un-run list. As i said, I made a list of ten falls, here are 5.

 #1) Big Creek Falls Standing around 90ft.
Big Creek Falls, WA
Standing around 90ft.
#2) Falls Creek Falls Standing around 70ft. Very challenging lead-in, short recovery pool.
Falls Creek Falls, WA
Standing around 70ft.
Very challenging lead-in,
short recovery pool.
#3) Hidden Falls, Multnomah Creek Standing around 70 feet Steep hike in - Vertical lip
Hidden Falls, Multnomah Creek, OR
Standing around 70 feet
Steep hike in – Vertical lip.
#4) Un-named Un-run Falls Upper Rock Creek, WA Getting there is quite a mission.
Un-named Un-run Falls
Upper Rock Creek, WA
Getting there is quite a mission, but also has more un-run gems downstream..
Horsetail Falls  Can be seen from I84 pouring in next to the Historic Hywy just west of Multnomah Falls. This one will take some intense imagination focus.
Horsetail Falls stands around 176 ft.
Can be seen from I84 pouring in next to the Historic Hwy just west of Multnomah Falls.
This one will take some intense imagination and focus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Editors note, this list is simply for entertainment and I am in no way saying these falls are safe to descend. It is simply an opinion of mine based on years of paddling experience on what I have seen at each falls. Take it for what you will.