Friday, March 5, 2021

A Tale of Two Waterfalls

One of the things I'd looked forward to in retirement was midweek visits to some of the more popular local waterfalls.  Bonus if I could capture them covered in snow and ice.


Tamanawas Falls


I picked a Tuesday in early February for my winter waterfall excursion.  Although a warmer-than-normal January hadn't produced a lot of snow and ice thus far, I decided to check out conditions anyway.


Tamanawas Falls close-up


First on the day's agenda - lovely Tamanawas Falls.  Located on Mt Hood's east side this impressive 100-foot cascade was found at the end of a steep canyon.  It's higher elevation meant a better chance of seeing it surrounded by snow and ice.  (And, fun fact, the name "tamanawas" means "friendly guardian spirit" in the language of the Northwest Native Americans.)


Icy rocks at the bottom of the falls

Although I packed snowshoes, the trail's snowpack had been melted and refrozen so many times, it resembled a slippery icy ribbon.  Leaving my snowshoes in the car, I instead attached microspikes to my boots and headed down the short 2-mile path.


Different photo edit (what do you think?)


The trail was a delight, following beautiful Cold Spring Creek.  After traversing an icy rockslide, I came upon my first view of the falls, framed by steep canyon walls.  Although there were no icicles hanging from the canyon rim, nor thick snowpack, the scene was still mighty beautiful.


Ice close-up


Besides the lack of snow, my other disappointment was the early morning light was horrible for photography.  The falls were backlit, and high overcast skies made for a lot of contrasting light.  But I was here to get photographs, so I set up my tripod and waded through the creek to get in position.  Despite the poor conditions, I had a great time trying to capture the stunning scenery.


Last of the fall leaves


I started early and luckily had the waterfall to myself the entire time.  It wasn't until I'd packed up and started back down the trail that I met the first hiker of the day.


Cold Spring Creek

Besides Tamanawas Falls, the other highlight of this area was the lovely, blue-gray waters of Cold Spring Creek.  Remembering that this creek was especially scenic at the midway bridge crossing, I made a point to stop and set up my tripod on the return trip.


Snowman near the creek


The surrounding forest here was especially scenic.  It provided the perfect backdrop for some long exposure water shots.  Someone had even made a snowman on a nearby stump and I couldn't resist a few pics of it's smiling face.


Cold Spring Creek

After spending most of the morning at Tamanawas Falls, it was time to head to my second destination of the day, Wahclella Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.


Flowing water long exposure


After driving through a downpour for nearly a half hour, I almost didn't take the exit to my second stop.  But the heavens cleared just as I was approaching the turnoff, so waterfall hike number two was on.


Tanner Creek


The trail to Wahclella Falls is extremely short - a distance of a mere mile will get you to this Gorge gusher.


Tanner Creek flowing water


The trail follows gorgeous Tanner Creek the entire way.  Despite this area being burned in the huge 2017 Eagle Creek wildfire, it had rebounded nicely.  After being closed for nearly three years, the trail had recently reopened to the public.  I was happy to return to this favorite place.


Unnamed seasonal waterfall


Several prior days of heavy rain had produced some seasonal waterfalls that were running down the steep canyon walls.


Steep canyon walls


As I walked closer towards Wahclella Falls the canyon walls became higher and the area around Tanner Creek narrower.  Finally, hearing the sound of roaring water I came upon Wahclella Falls, churning mightily through a crevice in the cliff.


Wahclella Falls


This cascade was so wide it was hard to get a good photograph.  There was so much white it threw off the camera's exposure meter.  I did use a polarizing filter for my waterfall shots, but it didn't seem to be quite enough.  (Time to invest in some good neutral density filters!)


Nearby seasonal waterfall


There was also another tall, slender seasonal cascade tumbling down the nearby canyon wall.  So delicate and beautiful, I couldn't resist grabbing a few images.


Wahclella Falls canyon

After attempting many shots from all different angles of Wahclella Falls and it's rocky grotto, the rain started up again.  Trying to hastily pack up my camera gear I accidentally dropped a lens hood and it rolled into a deep rock crevice next to the creek.

Oh no!  I peered down the crevice, and spotted the lens hood resting on the gravelly creek bank.  But it was at least 15 feet down.  Too far for me to safely retrieve it - I wasn't about to risk life and limb climbing down a slippery rock face.  I almost wrote off my loss and walked away.  But then I spotted a huge pile of logs and downed limbs that had been washed up by the creek.  Maybe I could find a stick long enough to reach it?


Wahclella Falls downstream


After trying two different sticks, I finally found one that would extend to the crevice bottom.  Now it was just a bit of skill and patience to coax the lens hood onto the stick's end.  Luckily for me, a man came by and once he learned of my predicament, offered to help.  The man was able to hook my lens hood on the stick and carefully bring it up.  When it was close enough I was able to grab the hood.  Hooray!


Huge mossy boulders downstream

Now soaking wet and covered with mud from trying to retrieve my wayward camera gear, I decided it was time to head back to the car.  But passing by a section of Tanner Creek lined with huge mossy boulders, I couldn't resist one last photo session.


Tanner Creek view on the way back


Although I wasn't able to capture snow-covered icy waterfalls this time, the two cascades I did visit were still extremely photogenic.  Another wonderful winter's day spent in the Pacific Northwest!



  1. What a fantastic place to visit, especially in midweek when there aren't too many people around. There is another trick you can try if you don't have an ND filter: using your tripod you can take several frames of exactly the same scene and blend them together. It doesn't give quite the same effect as a looong exposure but does work. Personally I don't like waterfalls to be too blurred as it makes them look like flimsy, airy things rather than giving the idea of noisy, crashing water. Of course, I'm in the minority!

  2. Hello,

    Love the waterfalls! The scenery is beautiful, very photogenic. I am glad someone came along and helped retrieve your lens hood. Lovely series of photos. Happy weekend!

  3. ...Linda,these images are gorgeous.

  4. Awesome photos, love to try my new R6 on something like that. Know the feeling dropping a lens cap. I lost them before now worst was one falling on the frozen river Thames cannot remember if I managed to retrieve it, standing on the ice was out that is for sure

  5. You can never go wrong with waterfalls!

  6. Gorgeous views. Like I have mentioned before, I’m glad you go on these excursions and share the pictures, cause I sure wouldn’t, or by now, likely couldn’t.

  7. I'm fortunate that weekends here aren't busy in winter and my job is pretty flexible. Way to leave no trace, impressive work!

  8. Retirement offers up so many new opportunities! Those are some gorgeous falls. Nice job saving your equipment!

  9. AWesome waterfalls, I bet the sound was great in the narrow canyon! :)

  10. First your "different photo edit" is STUNNING! I like it very much. What a wonderful opportunity to do early season during the week hikes to favorite spots. I am jealous! I am very glad you got help and got your wayward camera gear retrieved. Whew! --Sherry in MT

  11. Beautiful scenes! I'm glad someone helped you retrieve you gear.


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