Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Rainbow Falls, Multnomah Falls, Munrah Falls, and Wahclella Falls
We took a trip down to Portland at the beginning of April so that I could audition for the Portland Opera outreach program. I didn't get the part (though I did get some really good feedback and encouragement from the judges), but I wasn't really expecting to since it didn't fit my voice. However, it did give us an excellent excuse to check out some of the many beautiful Columbia Gorge waterfalls.
I'd never been to Portland in the spring, but I'd always wanted to since that's when waterfalls are at full force. The spray was everywhere! It was actually really difficult to take pictures since the lens kept getting wet. I think early summer might be the better time to see waterfalls. They're nearly at their peak without the spray preventing you from getting good pictures.
As you pass Olympia traveling south on I-5, there's a sign for a Rainbow Falls state park about 15 miles west. Since we'd passed the sign several times on previous trips, and since I love waterfalls, I wanted to make sure we stopped there this time.
What a huge mistake. This was the waterfall. Boring! I kept double checking the map to make sure I hadn't missed the real waterfall somewhere. I don't know how anyone could ever define this little rapid as a waterfall. It was a complete waste of time, and I can't believe I traveled 30 miles out of my way to see it. This review from pnwhikes.com sums it up perfectly.
"Rainbow Falls might possibly be the most disappointing waterfall in the Pacific Northwest. The falls occur within the Chehalis River where it intersects a low bench of basalt and skips about 5 feet downward in a gradual slide. The feature resembles more of a rapid than a waterfall (at high water this is a much more obvious trait), but the reason its such a big disappointment is the presence of the surrounding Rainbow Falls State Park. I suppose there may have not been anything else to name the park for, but that the state graced the park with the falls' monitor will undoubtedly mislead some people."
I was so disappointed by that pathetic excuse for a waterfall that I insisted we go to Multnomah Falls before we check out any others we hadn't seen before. I knew that at least that would be gorgeous.
Above is the view of the upper falls from the bridge, and below is the view looking down on the lower falls from the same bridge. There's a story listed near the falls that a wedding party was taking pictures on the bridge when a huge boulder fell into the pool. The resulting wave soaked the entire party. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt, but that would be a terrible thing to happen on your wedding day! Hopefully they can laugh it off by now.
What an amazing view of the falls just from the parking lot!
While at the Multnomah Falls visitor's center, we bought an incredibly useful book called "Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest" by Gregory Plumb. I wish I'd had this book 5 years ago when we moved to Washington. Thanks to its contents we picked a nearby hike to see two other Columbia Gorge waterfalls - Munra Falls and Wahclella Falls.
You come upon Munra Falls fairly soon after beginning the hike to Wahclella Falls. It's a not a terribly impressive waterfall, but it's pretty cool to walk right next to it and touch it.
There were several small waterfalls along the way that I'm sure only exist during the spring.
We liked these nifty grottos.
And finally we arrived at beautiful Wahclella Falls.
It's cool how the falls are being fed both from an upper cascade and a side cascade.
We also passed little East Fork Falls on our way back.
There were several cool river rapids we passed on our way back. We laughed about how any of them were better than Rainbow Falls State park. Now whenever we see a pretty rapid we say "hey, it's Rainbow Falls."