Although Oregon’s 620-foot Multnomah Falls is quite extraordinary, the Beaver State’s second highest waterfall is pretty impressive, too. Salt Creek Falls, near Willamette Pass Ski Area, dramatically plummets 286 feet over a basalt cliff. This easily accessible waterfall is a spectacular site, and with an average flow of 50,000 gallons per minute, is said to be the most powerful waterfall in the area. And to top it off—you’ll not find crowds here like you will at Multnomah Falls in the Columbia Gorge.
Salt Creek Falls gets its name from the many mineral springs and salt “licks” used by deer and other animals in the area. Another unique attribute of the falls is how it was formed— through a combination of ice age glaciers and lava flows. Interpretive signs at the site provide all the details: Over a million and a half years ago, a major ice age began and Salt Creek was turned into a thick river of ice, which sculpted the river valley into a deep U-shaped canyon. Then, about 600,000 years ago, volcanic eruptions spewed lava into upper Salt Creek, resulting in a thick layer of basalt. Advancing and retreating ice, pounding floodwaters, and lots of lava shaped the landscape and formed the vertical cliff that Salt Creek plunges over.
In addition to a well-maintained short path leading to the falls’ viewing area, Salt Creek Falls Observation Site has plenty of parking, restrooms, a picnic area, and hiking trails. All the facilities, with the exception of the trail leading to the base of the falls, are accessible to wheelchair users.
IF YOU GO:
Salt Creek Falls Observation Site is 23 miles southeast of Oakridge, Oregon. From Oakridge, proceed east on Hwy 58 for 23 miles to FS road 5893. Follow signs to Salt Creek Falls and the parking lot.
Recreation Pass or $5.00 fee required.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com