Saturday, November 9, 2013

Finding Gold at Silver Falls

Waterfall lovers - this post is for you!  Oregon is known for lots of wonderful things, but on top of the list is its abundance of spectacular waterfalls.  And some of the best ones can be found at Silver Falls State Park.

Brilliant red vine maple

Located an hour's drive south of Portland, the park is home to ten stunning cascades.  Silver Creek winds through a narrow canyon, dropping over basalt cliffs to create these lacy curtains of water.  A scenic 8 mile trail will take you past each one.

South Falls in its fall splendor

Although this place is gorgeous in any season, autumn is by far my favorite time to visit.  Last October, my friends and I spent a rainy Saturday photographing this place.  We got lucky and caught the peak of fall colors (you can read all about it here.)  This year, I was hoping to do the same.

Amazing morning light on a mossy tree

But - this time fall came early.  Two weeks early, to be exact.  By the time I realized this fact, colors at Silver Falls had reached their vibrant height.  By mid-October, when I finally got a free day to visit, leaves were already turning brown and dropping.

Golden yellow trees

It was another lovely sunny, dry October morning when I pulled my car into the South Falls parking area.  Although sunshine is usually great, it's not the weather I want to photograph waterfalls.  Cloudy weather means uniform light.  Less light also means I can use slower shutter speeds, which gives the rushing water it's silky-smooth effect.

Leaf-littered path

Luckily, the waterfalls are all located in a deep canyon that was still in the shadows.  As I walked towards the overlook to South Falls, the morning light was just beginning to illuminate it's rim.  Time for me to get to work - and quickly!

The trail behind South falls

I was able to fire off some good images of South Falls, the tallest and grandest of the park's ten waterfalls.  The water from Silver Creek drops 177 feet from the canyon's rim to the splash pool below.  An amazing sight!  There's even a trail that takes you behind it's shimmering cascade.  Being close to such a large volume of water roaring in front of your face is breathtaking.  See the photo above?  Those small white-ish dots to the left of the falls are people.  (Yes, it's that big!)

Beautiful golden foliage

As I wound down the trail to the canyon's bottom, light from above filtered into the thick forest.  It lit up the yellow and orange leaves to a lovely golden hue.  Some of the sun's rays backlit a mossy tree and it's remaining leaves.  Such beautiful sights, I didn't know whether to photograph the waterfall first, or the foliage.  (A good problem to  have!)

Creekside views

After lots of photos of South Falls and the gorgeous forest in the vicinity, I moved on down the trail for a rendezvous with my next photo subject - Lower South Falls.

Old gnarled tree frames the top of Lower South Falls

To reach Lower South Falls, one must climb down a very long series of steep trails and stairs.  Looking ahead to the waterfall, squeezed in the end of a narrow canyon, I could see the sunlight streaming directly above the water.  If I took any photos here, I'd be shooting directly into the sun.  That wouldn't work.  I was about to bag any attempt to photograph this cascade until I crossed behind it to the other side. 

Sunburst at Lower South Falls

A gnarled, mossy tree branch hanging over the falls caught my eye.  It made for an interesting shot, so I took a couple photos.  Then, looking up at the very top I spied sun rays shining through the forest above.  I realized if I positioned my camera just right, the rays created a sunburst.  After many, many tries, and lots of adjustments in exposure, I created this amazing image.  It's my very favorite from the day, and might be my all-time best waterfall photo to date.  What do you think?

Silver Creek is dressed up for autumn

Leaving Lower South Falls, I trekked through the canyon, stopping here and there to capture another fall forest scene, or frothy white rapids in Silver Creek.

A magical place!

Although I'd cursed the sun in the morning, I was beginning to love what it was doing to the surrounding forest.  It's light filtering through the golden autumn leaves made them look absolutely magical.

The very top of Lower North Falls

I passed by Lower North Falls, but it being a shorter waterfall (a mere 30 feet in height), only snapped a couple of shots before moving on.

Fallen leaves

Beyond Lower North Falls, I traversed leaf-littered paths until, up ahead, peeking through the trees, I spied Middle North Falls.

Middle North Fall's silvery curtain

Middle North Falls is my second-favorite waterfall in the park.  Dropping 106 feet, it forms a lacy fan across the lip of a huge basalt cliff.

You can walk behind it too!

Again - this is another waterfall you can walk behind.  So cool!  The wide openings behind most of the cascades in the park were formed when lava flows engulfed living trees, causing the wood to disintegrate, and leaving these large voids.

The creek below Middle North Falls

This is my favorite spot to photograph Middle North Falls.  It's on the opposite side of the trail, looking downstream from the fall's splash pool.  I love the small streams of water trickling down the rocks and the leaf-littered creek bank.  And the lush forest surrounding it all is so beautiful!

Scenic creek and footbridge

After lots of photo ops at Middle North Falls, I continued my journey past my favorite stretch of Silver Creek.  Just before a very lovely footbridge, there is a concentration of gorgeous yellow and orange maple trees.  Their colorful branches droop over the water, forming a lovely scene.  Fallen leaves litter the water.  Serene and lovely.

More amazing yellow leaves

Time running late, I had to cut my hike short.  The other falls would have to wait for another day.  I took a connector trail that led me out of the canyon, and back to the lodge and South Falls parking area.

Silver Falls Lodge

The lodge here is a grand stone and timber building surrounded by huge Douglas firs and bright vine maple.  Another scenic spot, there was always something I had to stop and photograph.  It took me much longer than anticipated to reach the car.

Orange leaves and blue sky

One of the great things about a trip to Silver Falls State Park is that my son Cody's seminary is nearby, so I ended a wonderful day of photography by meeting him for dinner.

Although I missed the autumn color peak, and had to work around bright sunlight, I'd still discovered lots of great photo subjects.  A successful trip, I'd truly found and captured some golden moments.  Yes, there is gold in Silver Falls State Park.

Sharing with:  Sweet Shot Tuesday.


  1. So beautiful and so dreamy. You captured the falls and fall color perfectly.
    One of these days I'll make down there, maybe in the Spring.
    Thanks, Linda, for the wonderful journey you took us on!

  2. Oh my goodness, this is an absolute must-do for when I make it out to Oregon to hike. WOW!

  3. What a gorgeous place to spend the day! I love the blue of the water against the fall colors - great photos :-)

  4. LOVED that trail behind the waterfall. I just cannot get over the abundance of beautiful hiking trails you have out there.

  5. I can always depend on you to give me new ideas of places to go with my camera!

  6. Absolutely stunning, Linda! Looks like a great place to go exploring.

  7. What truly lovely and golden moments .
    That fall is awesome of course your spectacular photography really brought it home for me ... I could feel the beauty !
    Must have been amazing to be there.

  8. What brilliant photo, I thought the first falls were superb but until I saw the people near it I had not realised it hight. Brilliant place for a hike

  9. EEEk!! I gasped when I saw the photo of the gnarled tree with the sun and the falls! Breathtaking!!!!!! I would love to go on your hikes! Thanks so much for sharing them..:)

  10. Your waterfall pictures are amazing!

  11. You have some superb shots here, Linda. The sunburst at the falls is stunning, definitely my favorite. Next is the amazing leaves against the blue sky. Exceptional photos.

  12. Yes! Lower South Falls is amazing!I just don't see how you were able to get all of these incredible shots-there is so much moisture, I imagine it was slippery. The moss is gorgeous too-it all is! I loved, loved, loved it all:)

  13. Your pictures are so splendid dear Linda :) I loved the fall colors and the cascading waterfall. Such a magical place to be in :)

  14. fantastic shot, i love your photos.

  15. What a beautiful place to hike and the photos you captured are gorgeous!

  16. Wow - that's a trail I'd absolutely love. You got a lot of great photos here.

  17. Those falls are stunning... especially the one with the trail around the bowl of the falls and the people, it really gives perspective of how big that is!

  18. All of the photos are just gorgeous. I find the ones of the water falls the most impressive.

  19. Beautiful, magical, amazing...I had forgotten just how wonderfully gorgeous Silver Falls SP is! Got to get up there next year:)
    PS: That's awesome that your trip also included a dinner with your son!

  20. Truly amazing...truly beautiful! I've been to Silver Falls State Park just once, and that was long ago--during the summer. Having seen your fabulous images, I know that I would love to visit again--this time during the fall!

  21.!!! Such a spectacular spot to hike...and such wonderful shots!!! You may not have made the height of the color season...but what you got is absolutely beautiful!!! Those water falls are in California our waterfalls start to wane in the fall...not so much water!!!

  22. Looks like my kinda place! Lovely photos too.

  23. You captured fall splendor perfectly!!

  24. Nice series- I especially liked the last one.Simple beauty

  25. Wow wow wow! I am truly blown away. Your photography is always spectacular, but these photos are on another level. Just gorgeous! I love all the waterfall shots and the one with the sun peeking through is magical. Beautiful beyond words!

  26. You've captured the beauty of this place so well! My favorites are the photos of the waterfalls. And the yellow leaves. Actually, it's hard to pick a favorite :)

  27. Thanks so much for your comments on my blog...I really love the waterfall shots.

  28. Wow! How beautiful your shots are! I want to live in Oregon. Your falls shots are stunning beautiful,more than real falls.
    Thanks for sharing.

  29. Some wonderful pictures here. Like those leaves..... fall is the best time for photographers.

  30. Oh my what gorgeous photos. The waterfalls are stunning. Loving the autumnal colors here.

  31. Oh my goodness, I also feel like I was there.

  32. Wow. Wow. Wow. :) These golden fall shots are breathtaking. So calming. The waterfall is super.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  33. Just had a photogasm at those beautiful waterfall shots!!

  34. Those are some amazing waterfalls, and great pictures. Looking back over your blog, I think it will end up one of my favourites for reading. Thanks for all the recent comments.


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