September 14, 2016

Salt Creek Falls (Jul. 2016, OR)


Salt Creek Falls

Salt Creek Falls
East of Oakridge, OR; West of Crescent, OR
Willamette Pass, OR Highway 58
43.611491, -122.127116
Weather: 80 degrees, alpine sun!

My dad had been suggesting a stop at Salt Creek Falls as one of the stops of my summer Oregon tour, which consisted of places I had been as a young kid, but haven't been in many years. The grand aqua cascade of Salt Creek can be seen from OR Highway 58, so it's a must-stop for any passers-by looking for a good natural view.

Highway 58 brought us into the dense forests of the Willamette along the side of a ridge. Also known as the Willamette Pass, the highway crosses the Cascade range before making its way to the Central Oregon plateaus on the eastern side of the line of peaks.

The overlook area has a small parking lot. After paying the $5 day use fee, my brother Daniel and I set foot to find the falls. If you approach from the south trail, you'll find the creek running right next to you on the trail. My brother and I found ourselves looking at the rushing water adjacent to the dirt of the path within a couple minutes of walking. This innocent creek, however, morphs into a raging roar of mist in just a few hundred feet from the trailhead.

Dropping off

And there we saw it. We curved past the horizon to witness the sheer drop over the cliffs - an almost even 90-degree drop from the trail for at least a 100-200 feet. No photo I took could capture the entirety of the falls without losing its intricate detail and charismatic pull. It invited you to stare for hours while casually reminding us onlookers of its immense power in crafting this land.

Top of the falls

Salt Creek Falls

The burst fills a watercut ravine that runs ocean-bound. The green of water-hungry mosses and shoreline plants line the perpetually misted bowl.

Base of the Falls

Runoff and perpetual greens

This is truly a special place for observing the forest. As it happens, the falls unique structure puts the park at a very high point relative to the forest neighbors, placing visitors above the treetops. A short network of trails runs along the edge of the ravine and tightly hugs the cliffs from which the falls are cut. These trails (and thankfully, handrails) make for some great viewpoints of the falls. The entire western view of the Willamette National Forest is visible for miles.

Viewpoint

Path of vistas

The forest expanse

Even at the top of the falls, I am dwarfed by the scale of the waterflow. The sound was outstanding, echoing a deep rumble through the trees and rock. Daniel and I spent some time observing by leaning on the railings, taking it all in. We mediatated for a while on this giant, using our eyes to capture the scale, our ears resonating with its low bass song, and our noses absorbing the dual perfumes of creek and tree, violently mixed with the force of nature's churn.

Me at Salt Creek Falls

Daniel taking in the views

At the most revealing outlooks, the trees spanned for miles. Life appeared as a minature train model, with each tree meticulously placed by a modelmaker obsessed with his craft. The falls provided punctuation to the phrase spoken by the forest by giving a brief exclamation to the otherwise rolling shape of the hills. More micro features also greeted visitors, though, with plenty of life along the trails and human-scale geologic features to be enjoyed. I was particularly taken by this almost geometric pattern of rocks along the trail, neighbor to the cliff.

A split in the path

Broken rocks

Unfortunately, we didn't have hours to spend here, else I could have gotten caught up in the decibels of the great water. The term "observation point" implies a quick look-see and leave, but I wish it weren't the case. Onlookers could quickly get bored once they've "seen it." That's the challenge with grand sights - we focus on the great spectacles because they're easy for our eye to grab. They're the heroes of nature, the locations of our adventures, the marks on our maps. However, with this and many other places I've quickly visited because of either necessity or because of it's "smallness" despite greatness, I'd like to come back and spend all day to reflect and observe. However, we always have more places to go, more unique sights to see. My path will lead me to these falls again. The best part is that when I visit a great monument a second time, I know I will see something different...because I'm looking for more to the story.

Main sign - Salt Creek Falls

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