Saturday, March 25, 2023

A Winter Waterfall

Who doesn't love waterfalls in the winter season?  Blanketed in snow, icicles hanging on the nearby canyon walls, and if you're lucky, maybe some interesting ice formations in the splash bowl below.  In my opinion, frozen cascades are the holy grail of landscape photography.

Chilly Cold Spring Creek

Where I live, the waterfall corridor of the Columbia River Gorge usually gets one to two days per year of temperatures low enough to partially freeze the cascades.  But when that happens, the road to get there is usually icy too.  However, there is one waterfall near Mt. Hood where winter conditions are fairly reliable most of the season.  Tamanawas Falls, located in the higher elevations of Mt. Hood National Forest, is a popular winter destination.  A short hike or snowshoe along Cold Spring Creek rewards intrepid adventurers with gorgeous, snowy scenery.

Snow-dusted trees

One cold winter morning I made the long drive to Mt. Hood's east side, destination Tamanawas Falls trailhead.  Arriving to a parking area with snow piled high, I decided to enlist the services of my snowshoes.  Although the adjacent trail appeared to be well packed, I wasn't sure what the rest of the route would entail.  There was a lot of snow in the forest!  Having been stuck post-holing on past hikes where I'd left the snowshoes behind, as far as I was concerned it was better safe than sorry.

Hiker bridge over Cold Spring Creek

I shuffled easily along the well-tromped trail, stopping frequently to admire the snowy forest and adjacent creek.  White-dusted fir trees captured the attention of my camera many times.  The sky was overcast, but occasionally the clouds would briefly part, teasing me with the promise of sunshine.  

Blue rapids

About halfway along the 2-mile trail hikers cross charming Cold Spring Creek, rapids bubbling in an unusual icy-blue-aqua color.  Of course, the creek enticed me to flounder through deep snow to it's bank for more intimate captures (good thing I had my snowshoes!)

Intricate ice formations in the creek

Beyond the bridge crossing I sauntered along the trail, stopping frequently to check out more beauty.  Where the creek's rapids slowed, icicles had formed on overhanging tree branches.

First view of Tamanawas Falls

Even with a packed down trail, I was finding hiking in snowshoes required much more effort than mere walking.  Huffing and puffing uphill through a large talus slope, I began to think I'd never get to that darn waterfall.

A bit closer view

But of course I eventually did arrive.  And boy was it worth the effort!  Deep snow covered the valley.  Huge icicles hung from the canyon walls.  In the middle of it all Tamanawas Falls stood, it's white rapids gushing.  Absolutely stunning!

Lots of snow this year!

I'd never seen so much snow here.  The waterfall's flow had transformed the deep snowbanks below into unique patterns.  Some of the icy creations glowed with a bluish hue.

I loved the unusual snow formations at the waterfall's base

I ventured closer to the waterfall.  Winds caught the spray, covering my camera lens.   Close-range photography became difficult, but between gusts I managed a few droplet-free images.

Mother Nature's artwork

I loved trying to capture details of the icy sculptures beneath the cascade.  Due to all the white color, exposure was tricky.

Breathtaking beauty

I had Tamanawas Falls to myself for nearly a half hour before other hikers appeared.  By then I had a memory card full of images, so I decided it was time to head back.  But leaving such an impressive winter scene wasn't easy.  I lingered a bit, snapping a few extra photos with people in the frame for scale.  Then snow began to fall, making this beautiful place even more magical.  Oh, I couldn't leave without a few images of the snow falling!

As I departed, snow began to fall

A great outing, it was icy Tamanawas Falls for the win!  Although this trail is accessible year-round, I think winter is the very best time to visit.


  1. Beautiful. I'm kind of over winter, but if I had nice waterfalls like this one close by I might change my mind.

  2. Wow that is one beauty of a waterfall, your timing was perfect with the fresh snow!

  3. ...I love your winter wonderland, we haven't had much of a winter this year.

  4. Oh, Linda, I can feel your joy of this magical winter beauty. Definitely worth every huff and puff to get up the talus slope! Wonderful images shared.

  5. Breathtaking beauty! Each of these images is a prize winning shot.

  6. Sometimes the best beauty spots are the hardest to get to. Awesome shots. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  7. These are gorgeous images! Waterfalls in the winter are visually breathtaking.

  8. Sigh! Oh the beauty of it all from Chilly Cold Spring Creek to when the snow began to fall and everything in between!

  9. A true winter wonderland. I don't think I've ever seen snow formations like those below the falls - even in pictures.


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