3/4 mile hike into Oneonta Gorge to Lower Oneonta Falls
Locked away in a narrow slot canyon Oneonta Creek is a beautiful escape from the outside world. The lower falls can only be access by parking at the parking area and hiking up the creek through the canyon. Wear clothes that you can get wet and go in the summer when flows are low and temperatures are warm. You will have to wade through neck deep water just before you get to the hidden lower falls or try to scale the slippery wall beside the pool.
Oneonta Gorge has been described as “one of the true dramatic chasms in the state.”
For a breathtaking retreat from civilization this gorge is one of a kind. Best during summer months since you have to walk through the water, but you can access it anytime of the year. It does require some log hoping and walking up a slick creek bed. Weekends can get crowded as it is one of the more popular hikes in the Columbia Gorge. Oneonta is located east of Multnomah Falls and just west of Horsetail Falls on the historic Columbia Gorge highway.
Multnomah Creek is a beauty. A steep and classic example of the ruggedness of the Pacific Northwest. The falls drops in two major steps, split into an upper falls of 542 feet and a lower falls at 69 feet. It is also the most visited tourist attraction in Oregon, having over 2 million visitors each year. The trail leads past Multnomah Lodge and across Benson Bridge acceding to the upper portion of the creek.
There are many smaller falls upstream as you ascend the creek. Hidden Falls and Weisendanger Falls marks a potential put-in if you are going to explore with your kayak. In the early 2000’s a group of paddlers made the first descent on Multmomah creek (Trip Report can be found on Oregonkayaking.net) putting in below Weisendanger and paddling down to Mutlnomah and taking out well before the 600ft. horizon line. A couple years later a group of paddlers went up to run Weisendanger, To my knowledge one person claimed the first desent before another paddler suffered a minor injury and the group left. With the amount of tourist activity at the base of the creek it is next to impossible to hike up the trail with your boat on your shoulder without being asked a million questions (Mostly if you are going to to run off Multnomah Falls). I was stopped by park rangers on my first attempt (They said it was illegal) so I turned around and left to go figure out a better way in. That better way was only due to not being seen, but the trail was a little more difficult. Ely Pyke, Josh White and I did a little warm up on lower Bridal Veil then drove over to Wahkeena Falls and hiked up the trail to Larch Mountain then made our way over to Multnomah Creek and dropped in on Hidden Falls and Weisendanger Falls. Ely ran Weisendanger twice that day while Josh and I looked on with excitement. On the second run Ely said he hit something pretty hard on the landing after over rotating a bit. The waterlevel was a little low and the more water the better for this falls. After the excitement we hiked down the trail to the parking lot. We didn’t get as many questions on the way down as you do on the way up… If you really want to run this section of whitewater be careful and plan ahead. I’d put this one on the Mission Impossible list unless you are willing to hike in the back way, but even then it is well worth the adventure.
Flow: The flow in Multnomah Creeks comes from underground springs from Larch Mountain. Spring snow melt (rain on top of snow) is best for peak flows.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
* 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.