Monday, December 23, 2013


During the first week of December, frigid temperatures descended upon Oregon.  Although the eastern half is used to true winter, the Willamette Valley isn't.  As we Portlanders shivered in our boots, Mother Nature went to work.  With mercury dipping into the teens, something special began happening in the Columbia River Gorge.....

Unusual ice formations

All the waterfalls began to freeze.

Latourell Falls wearing a white coat

On average, the Gorge gets at least one cold snap a year.  However, these episodes are almost always accompanied by snow or freezing rain, creating treacherous driving conditions.  Only the very brave dare venture to check out the ice display.

The photographers are out!

This year, however, the cold temps were accompanied by dry weather.  With no icy roads to contend with, waterfall peepers flocked to the Gorge in droves.

Frosty branches frame the falls

I was one of them.  There's nothing more fascinating than seeing running water freeze.

Well, the falls themselves don't freeze solid.  Weight and velocity of the running water keep the main portions of them liquid.  But around the fringes of every waterfall, amazing ice sculptures begin to form.

Even the ferns have an icy coating

I began my winter wonderland waterfall tour on an extremely cold Sunday morning.  My car thermometer read a whopping 17 degrees as I pulled into the parking lot at Latourell Falls.

Ice clings to vegetation

I grabbed camera, tripod, backpack, and some newly-purchased microspikes.  These wonderful contraptions slipped over the bottoms of my boots to provide traction on icy footpaths.  From a visit several years ago, I remembered the base area of these waterfalls was extremely slippery during freezing weather.

The stone walls below Wahkeena Falls are coated with white

At such an early hour, I thought maybe I'd have the place to myself.  Ha!  There were already a half dozen photographers scattered around Latourell Fall's base as I approached on the trail.  I found an interesting vantage point, and began shooting away.

Icy branches dangle over the creek

Oh - it was such an amazing scene!  The entire rocky bowl around Latourell Falls was coated in a thick, white frost.  The spray coming off the falls froze into many intricate patterns on the rock walls.  Tree branches, rocks, ferns - all were coated with an icy film.

Multnomah Falls looks amazing

Almost immediately, my hands began to get cold.  I stuck them in my jacket pockets between shots to try and warm them up.  Then I noticed an icy film forming on the surface of my lens.  The mist from the fall's spray was landing on my lens and freezing.  I had to continuously scrape frost off my lens - kind of like scraping an icy car window.  The hazards of photographing frozen waterfalls!  This was something I'd never anticipated.

Icicles dangle above Multnomah Falls bridge

After a good hour and a half at Latourell Falls, I began to get really cold.  Time to head back to the car and warm up.  My body thawed as I drove to the next destination - Wahkeena Falls.

As you know from a very recent blog post, I'd just visited Wahkeena Falls a couple of weeks prior.  Talk about a huge difference!  The rock walls at the waterfall's base were coated in a thick film of ice.  The vegetation on the sides of the creek were covered with delicate icicles.  Another wonderful display of Jack Frost and Mother Nature in action!   

Ice on the falls - a rare sight

Knowing it would be an absolute zoo, I had originally planned to bypass Multnomah Falls.  But nature was calling, and I knew they'd have a warm restroom.  Plus I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and scored a front-row parking spot.  So a stop here was in the cards.

Vegetation trapped in the ice

And I'm glad I decided to check it out.  Multnomah Falls was absolutely outstanding.  It's a beautiful waterfall in any season, but lined with frozen ice makes for a jaw-dropping scene.  Yes, it was wall to wall people here.  Yes, I had to elbow my way through the throngs to get some of my photos.  But capturing this rare show of nature was totally worth it.

Base of Horsetail Falls

My final stop in the day's tour was down the road at Horsetail Falls.  Because the viewing area is just off the road, this place was packed with people.  But the intricate ice patterns formed on the rocky wall behind this cascade were amazing.

Ice-choked creek at Horsetail Falls

I shot a bunch of photos of the falls themselves, the ice adjacent to the main water stream, and the partially frozen splash pool below.  Then, wanting to escape the crowds, I decided to take a short hike up the adjacent trail and check out Ponytail Falls.

Unique ice formations on the sides of Horsetail Falls

I'd visited Ponytail Falls a month ago, when colorful falls leaves adorned the trail.  Boy, what a difference a month and several degrees drop in temperature makes!

Ponytail Falls

Besides Multnomah, I thought Ponytail Falls was the most spectacular of the cascades I visited.  Tucked into an icy grotto, the splash pool below was outstanding.

Glittering ice at Ponytail Falls base

I loved the patterns freezing water made on the rocks below.  The coolest view of all was when I moved behind the falls.  Quite a difference from a month ago!  (Remember?  If you don't, check it out here.)

Wintry scene behind Ponytail Falls

By the time I finished up with my Ponytail Falls photo session, the sun was beginning to sink, the air getting colder.  Time to head back.  But with a memory card full of great shots, I knew the day had been a success.

Frost-covered stone fence

I did make time for one last photograph.  The carved stone wall along the Gorge Scenic Highway caught some of the spray blowing off of Horsetail Falls.  It coated one side of the gray posts in a blanket of white.  I found it most fascinating the patterns freezing waterfall mist made on its surrounding objects.

I knew our weather was supposed to warm up by the following weekend.  I didn't think I'd get another chance to see these frozen falls again.  But sometimes the unexpected happens, and just two days later I was given another chance...... Be sure to check out the next next post for more frozen fun!

(Also don't forget to enter my calendar giveaway!)

Sharing with:  52 Photos Project.


  1. Wow, Linda, these are amazing!

  2. OMG! The photo of the unique ice formations beside ponytail falls is fantastic! What a beautiful portfolio of wintry pictures.

    Well done, Linda.

  3. Ponytail Falls is so beautiful, I hope someday to go see it.

  4. You asked why people liked to visit your blog, well this is why. I have nor I doubt will I ever visit places like this but I have seen it as you have taken me there. Thanks Have a great Christmas

  5. Incredible images, Linda. I'm so glad you ventured out into the cold.
    Merry Christmas, my friend!

  6. Hi,Linda. Nice captures. They are very fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

  7. These photos are so amazing! I've never seen ice like that before. It almost looks unreal! Sooooo cool. I bet the photographers were out for this! Thanks for sharing these. I really enjoyed them! Merry Christmas :)

  8. Thanks for mentioning the shoe issue and the freezing water on the lens issue, I might be looking for a frozen waterfall Thursday morning in NE Wisconsin. Great timing to help me out! Merry Christmas, Linda!

  9. Linda,
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful photographs of the waterfalls. I have climbed and hiked the whole areas as I was growing up, but never have seen anything like it. Merry Christmas and keep on shooting...Noriko

  10. Absolutely stunning, and perfect for the season. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  11. Absolutely gorgeous. That's something we rarely get to see.

  12. Jaw dropping shots Linda. Such a beautiful place.

  13. Beautiful shots of the frozen waterfalls. I had to show your post to my hubby, he loves hiking to see the frozen falls. Your photos are awesome. Happy New Years!

  14. Beautiful! I think winter is a beautiful time of year and you have captured it well!

  15. Fabulous! One time coming over the pass from Asheville, NC, there were frozen "waterfalls" all down the rock face. There's no place to pull over and it killed me not to get photographs of the view, but I tried to remember it. These photos are truly amazing and I appreciate your spending the day freezing in order to get them, and then sharing them here.

  16. Beautiful photos! I was at Multnomah Falls in 2009 when it froze over. I didn't go this year, for some reason, think I wasn't feeling well. I enjoy your work! The falls area in the gorge is awesome! Will be going again soon! Happy New Year!

  17. These are truly gorgeous. I'm impressed by your commitment to your craft to go out in those icy temps. The shots you got made it worthwhile though. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  18. Your ice fall photos are incredible!

  19. I have no words!! The Falls & your photographer are amazing! :-)

  20. What a beautiful surprise! And a great eye you have, Linda, to know to head to the falls to shoot. Your shots were incredible.


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