Multnomah Falls, Columbia Gorge, Oregon

This is possibly the most well known, most photographed waterfall in Oregon, and that’s saying something.  The first time we drove through Oregon, I was stunned at the sheer amount of green things, everywhere.  It’s vegetation on steroids everywhere you look – verdant forests, lavender fields, moss covered retaining walls.  The list goes on.  And why is Oregon so green?  Lots and lots of rain.  The western part of the state can get 200 inches of rain per year.  That means an abundance of overflowing, gorgeous waterfalls.

Multnomah is perhaps so popular because of its unique two-tiered flow, bisected by a fairy tale bridge that looks like it sprouted straight from all that moss, by magic.  It also requires almost no hiking, making it easily accessible for just about anyone.

The downside?  It’s easily accessible by just about anyone.

We went on a Thursday mid-day, hoping some of the traffic would be thinned out since it wasn’t a weekend.  I don’t even want to imagine Multnomah on a weekend.  We parked a ways down the road (the “official” spots were full), and walked back to the falls.  You can see this spectacular beauty right from the road, no walking involved.  You can also walk under a half mile to the bridge, or one mile to the top, which is also the starting point for a hike to several other waterfalls on this path.

Even on a Thursday in the middle of the day, it’s crowded.  We made it to the bridge (you simply can’t drive all the way to Multnomah Falls, see that bridge and not check it for fairies or trolls or simply just to feel the mist from a waterfall like that).  We patiently waited to get to the middle, where everyone wants to take pictures and selfies and shots for the Christmas card, and we might as well have been glued to the bridge for all the wiggle room we had.

Here’s how this went, from my perspective:

*gasp* “That’s the most picturesque waterfall I’ve ever seen! It’s HUGE! Kids, it’s the bridge!  We’re on THE bridge! Oh. Okay.  Hello there.  That’s my foot.  Still my foot.  Eek, you are crushing my foot!  Whew, thanks.  Oof.  No that elbow to my spleen is no trouble at all, you go left, I’ll squish right.  I can’t even breathe here!  Quick, there’s an opening, GET OFF THE BRIDGE!”

Hopefully if you fellow gypsies ever get a chance to witness the beauty of Multnomah, it won’t be so crowded.  It’s an utterly breathtaking spot, even if the bridge is a little anxiety-inducing for those who like to move their elbows.

Even more impressive, to me, was the drive to Multnomah.  From Portland, you turn east, away from the bustle of the city.  The airport is also in this direction, so prepare for traffic the first 15 miles or so.  When I saw “Columbia Gorge” when we were planning this trip, I thought the entire distance from Portland would be lush, green and scenic.  Without all the other cars and the 5-mile an hour driving.  You just need to get past that little bump in the road, then you’re gifted with this view, along the highway:

Traffic thins out considerably, the road grows curvier, and you just drive with your mouth open, agog.

See that little spot on the right, on the cliff in the middle?  It looks kind of dome-like?  Most scenic bathroom ever, at the Vista House.  It was built in 1917 as a rest stop for travelers to the Gorge, and the views from here are incredible.  From the deck, you can stand in Oregon and look right across the river into Washington, watching the boats cross.  Stop here, rest a while, then continue on through the gorge, counting all the 300-foot waterfalls you can see from the car.  Multnomah is a huge draw, but we found this means some of the other waterfalls, which are really stunning in their own right, have trails that are practically empty of hikers.  I could spend a week here, just on this little 20-mile stretch of road, taking in the mist, the ferns and the plummeting water.

 

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