Multnomah Falls in Winter

8 01 2015

IMG_8857Multnomah Falls, the most visited recreation site in the Pacific Northwest and Oregon’s most visited natural attraction, welcomes over 2 million people annually. It remains the tallest waterfall in Oregon throughout the year at 620 feet, being fed by underground springs from nearby Larch Mountain, melting snowpack from the Cascade Mountain Range, and plenty of rainfall. The majority of visitors flock to Multnomah Falls during warmer months even though it stays open all year, and each season provides its own charm, but my family also makes the trek every winter hoping to catch the falls clothed in ice. This glacial wonderland compels one to stare in awe.

Spray from the 542-foot upper and 69-foot lower falls freezes into crystal shards and frosty white sheets against jagged cliffs that flank the waterfall and bottom pool. Creeks that trickle from the sides form icy bubbles over mossy rocks, bare branches and sword ferns. The trailhead view satisfies enough, but meander the paved foot trail a quarter mile up to the 45-foot long 1914 Benson Footbridge that spans the lower falls. Peer down 105 feet to the lower falls or observe the upper falls intimately as its spray engulfs you in an arctic shower and inflicts a frigid blast. Be cautious of slippery concrete and continue on the path nearly an additional mile to a platform overlooking the falls in its entirety, a dizzying perspective of the drop along with an Eagle-eye panorama of the Columbia River and Gorge, the Union Pacific Railroad, and the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge built in 1925.

This path leading to the platform divides toward Multnomah Creek (one of my favorite spots to picnic) and adjoins trail systems throughout the Columbia River Gorge. Unless you are prepared for a lengthy winter hike, head back down to the day-Lodge area and warm up. You’ll find the Multnomah Falls Lodge Restaurant, a gift shop, espresso bar, snack bar, Interpretive Center, and public restrooms. You won’t leave hungry or empty-handed.

Multnomah Falls is located off I-84 between Troutdale and Cascade Locks or along the 1913 Historic Columbia River Highway, the first highway in America named a National Historic Landmark. Parking is plentiful and a Northwest Forest Pass is not required. Pets are welcome and the Leash Law applies.

Simon Benson, a philanthropist who left his mark on Oregon, donated land that encompasses Multnomah Falls, financed projects including his namesake bridge, and constructed the HCRH Scenic Byway that is a must-do if possible. The HCRH provides several features on the National Register of Historic Places such as unique bridges, viewpoints, recreation sites, rare plants and creatures, and numerous waterfalls. The road itself is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. But enough of the titles, just go if you can!

 

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