After visiting a few waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge – and loving every minute of it – our family decided to set a goal of visiting ALL the waterfalls in Oregon by the time our son leaves home. It took just a little bit of research to realize that our goal was unrealistic – Oregon has over 1200 waterfalls, a majority of which are inaccessible! So we settled for visiting all of the reasonably accessible falls that are worth visiting.
If that goal seems a little subjective to you, you’re right! Apparently, there are different opinions on what qualifies as a waterfall and what doesn’t. Sometimes a five foot drop or a series of rapids is considered a waterfall. So I’ve left some named waterfalls off of my list because they have been deemed by others as not worth a visit. I’ve also left off any waterfalls that were recommended for “experienced bushwhackers” only. If you like bushwhacking, don’t worry – there are still plenty of falls on my list that require a bit of off-trail scrambling.
Using this criteria, I compiled a list of 335 waterfalls for our family to visit.* (Three hundred and thirty-five! That’s still a lot!) I based the list off of two major resources: waterfallsnorthwest.com and Greg Plumb’s A Waterfall Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest, both of which are thorough but neither of which is comprehensive. I expect that we will stumble across more falls as we do more research, and I hope that more falls will become accessible as the years go by. So this is by no means an official and final list, but it should be a good resource for anyone looking for some waterfall adventures.
A note about ratings: I consider 3 things when rating a waterfall: the waterfall itself, including its setting; the trail; and the experience. A waterfall worth 4 stars could be described as “gorgeous,” “majestic,” or “impressive.” A 3-star waterfall might not be as impressive, or the setting might not be as photogenic. A 2-star waterfall is nothing special, and a 1-star waterfall is really only worth a visit if you are checking it off a list like I am.
For me, a 4-star trail leads through a thickly wooded forest, contains some glorious viewpoints, and has some interesting flora or other features along the way. A 3-star trail will have some of those features, a 2-star trail is unremarkable, and a 1-star trail contains something disagreeable.
The most subjective category of all is the experience. I will give 4 stars to an adventure that includes more than hiking and waterfalls – perhaps caves to explore, or a swimming spot in which to splash around, or boulders and logs to climb over. A 3-star experience will be fun but not necessarily stand out, a 2-star experience will be unremarkable, and a 1-star experience means either there was no extra adventure or there was something negative about our experience. Obviously, what time of year you visit and what the weather is like that day can have a huge effect on how much a waterfall adventure is enjoyed.
My goal for this blog is to share about Oregon’s waterfalls as day trips – which waterfalls to combine in one trip and what other attractions to visit while in the area. I would love to hear suggestions from readers as well! Keep in mind that it will take us at least 10 years to visit all of these falls, so this will be an incomplete resource for quite a while. Incomplete or not, I hope you find it helpful!
*List revised January 2017 to include 347 waterfalls total.