Pacific Northwest Waterfall Photography – Oregon Waterfalls

by Scott Sady

This blog post about Oregon waterfall photography and exploring the Pacific Northwest has been a long time coming. So long in fact, that I forgot about it until I was contacted by the Oregon Eclipse travel guide to use one of my starfish photos that I shot even earlier on Bandon beach. While trying to also include a link to my waterfall pictures, I realized that I never put them online, anywhere. So enjoy, and if you want to go chasing waterfalls with your camera, here is a little beta.  This trip to photograph waterfalls in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest started because we were going to go to the desert. Yup, opposite directions, I know. The weather forecast for the entire west at that time was grey and cloudy. Not cool thunderstorm cloudy that might have good light, but England-drizzly-grey-cloudy. So with the Aliner packed and time taken off, we decided that waterfalls actually photograph better in flat light. Having a polarizing filter for removing the glare from the water and wet stones is also a good idea and having at least a 5-stop Neutral Density filter for dropping down your shutter speed enough to capture the movement of the water is also handy. All images shot on a Nikon D810. Having your waterfalls in shade, or cloudy light without hotspots of sunlight filtering through the trees is pretty much an ideal situation for waterfalls. That way we don’t have to worry about which way they face and when the sun will be off, on or behind them. Granted, you don’t get an opportunity for any dramatic misty back lighting, but overall, the keeper rate of these mossy waterfalls deep in the Columbia River Gorge is going to be higher with the flat light. Now to decide where to go on short notice.

The obvious starting point was Silver Falls State Park in Oregon. It was still early in the season, April, and it wouldn’t be too crowded. Plus there are large campgrounds and several easy to access waterfalls. Most of the waterfalls actually have trails cut behind them by the Oregon Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Silver Falls State Park has the trail of 10 waterfalls. Several of them are quite spectacular, others less so, but the trail is very easy which also makes it very popular. We shot most of these right around sunrise and sunset just to minimize the amount of people on the trail. Fine art prints are available, and a more detailed selection as well as stock photography from around the world can be licensed for publication from my searchable online photographic archive.

Walking on the trail behind Middle North Falls at the Silver Falls State park in northern Oregon. Middle North was one of my favorite falls to photograph here.

Middle North Falls at the Silver Falls State park in northern Oregon. The lush greenery and waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest are a must visit.

Looking out from a small cave in the trail behind Middle North Falls at the Silver Falls State park in northern Oregon. The lush greenery and waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest are a must visit.

South Falls at the Silver Falls State park in northern Oregon. This is the largest, and closest of the waterfalls. Plan to hit this real early if you don’t want lots of people in your photos.

A hiker on the trail behind South Falls at the Silver Falls State park in northern Oregon. The lush greenery and waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest are a must visit.

A hiker on the trail behind South Falls at the Silver Falls State park in northern Oregon.

A hiker on the trail behind South Falls at the Silver Falls State park in northern Oregon. The waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest are epic, especially in the Columbia River Gorge.

Lower North Falls at the Silver Falls State park in northern Oregon. The lush greenery and waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest are a must visit.

Lower North Falls at the Silver Falls State park in northern Oregon. This was a beautiful misty curtain of a waterfall. The year we went was a pretty low water year, so I imagine they normally run a bit bigger.

After leaving Silver Falls State Park in Oregon, we took the back roads to the Columbia River Gorge. The clouds started to get crazy for about 10 minutes at which time we took side roads frantically searching for something to photograph them with. I said to my wife jokingly, “What we really need is a red barn.” And literally we went around a curve in the road and saw this. Five minutes later the clouds had gone back to flat featureless grey.

Panther Falls in southern Washington. This waterfall is slightly harder to find and quite remote, but there is still a decent trail down to it, and it is off a paved road.

Panther Falls in southern Washington just on the North side of the Columbia River Gorge.

Panther Falls in southern Washington. The lush greenery and waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest are a must visit.

Lower Panther Falls in southern Washington. To get to the lower falls is slippery and somewhat dangerous. To get to the other side of the river, as I am in this photo, involves some serious river skills. You have been warned.

Lower Oneonta Falls in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This is one of the most spectacular short waterfall hikes around. This is the biggest payoff for the shortest hike. You hike up the river the entire time, at one point making a chest deep crossing. This was our saving grace as it was just cold enough to keep the majority of people from making the short, ice water wade, freeing up a few minutes without anyone standing under the falls for photography.

Lower Oneonta Falls in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This is one of the most spectacular short waterfall hikes around. Self portrait.

Lower Oneonta Falls in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This is one of the most spectacular short waterfall hikes around. My wife Monique braving the one deep spot before the falls. You can’t tell from this picture, be we are on our way back after taking our pictures. I crossed first and photographed Monique. About 20 people are standing around me, stopped by the unexpected deep water.

Fern Falls Falls in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This is off the trail waterfall is hard to find. The Columbia River Gorge is a great place for hiking and exploring and searching for hidden gems like this. You can count on most of the people to be hanging out at Multnoma Falls.

Fern Falls Falls in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This is off the trail waterfall is hard to find. The lush greenery and waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest are a must visit.

Upper McCord Falls in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This is off the trail waterfall is hard to find. Also, the downclimb to the base of this is steep and sketchy.

Lower Fall Creek Falls in Washington. This is a popular and easy waterfall hike. The lush greenery and waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest are a must visit. There is an easy 2mile each-way trail to the overlook, but no trail down here. So I did a little backtracking and found a way safely in while 50 or so folks crowded the viewing area just above me.

Fall Creek Falls in Washington. This is a popular and easy waterfall hike. This is the view of the upper falls from the viewing area, not too bad.

Metlako Falls on the Eagle Creek Trail along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This is a spectacular waterfall hike going past 7 falls in nearly as many miles. Eagle Creek Trail is a popular overnight, being a 12 mile round trip if you only go to just above Tunnel Falls.

Punchbowl Falls on the Eagle Creek Trail along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This is a spectacular waterfall hike going past 7 falls in nearly as many miles. The lush greenery and waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest are a must visit.

Punchbowl Falls on the Eagle Creek Trail along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This is a spectacular waterfall hike going past 7 falls in nearly as many miles. The lush greenery and waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest are a must visit.

Loowit Falls on the Eagle Creek Trail along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This is a spectacular waterfall hike going past 7 falls in nearly as many miles. The lush greenery and waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest are a must visit.

Tunnel Falls on the Eagle Creek Trail along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This is a spectacular waterfall hike going past 7 falls in nearly as many miles. The high point is the 175 foot Tunnel Falls with a tight tunnel and sheer drop as you come behind the falls.

The Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon side is not for the faint and probably not good for dogs. Lots of sheer cliffs.

Twister Falls on the Eagle Creek Trail along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. This is a spectacular waterfall hike going past 7 falls in nearly as many miles.

A hiker behind Tunnel Falls on the Eagle Creek Trail along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. The 175 foot waterfall with the tunnel behind it is the high point of the popular Eagle Creek trail hike in Oregon.

Finally or time exploring the waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge was coming to an end, we decided to head back through Crater Lake since I have never photographed there. The road was barely passable with snow everywhere and very few viewpoints accessible. The day was mostly cloudy and there was no sunset, but since we only had one day here, we decided to open a bottle of wine and wait until the Milky Way rose in case the clouds cleared. They mostly did. Crater Lake and the milky way at Night in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA.

Just north of Crater Lake is the Toketee Lake campground. A small, no frills campground for $10/night, we took it because on one end was the spectacular Toketee Falls in Southern Oregon with a spectacular display of basalt rock at its base after a short hike. At the other end (well, 2 miles up a dirt road,) was the amazing Umpqua Hot Springs.

Just north of Crater Lake is the Toketee Lake campground. A small, no frills campground for $10/night, we took it because on one end was the spectacular Toketee Falls in Southern Oregon with a spectacular display of basalt rock at its base after a short hike. At the other end (well, 2 miles up a dirt road,) was the amazing Umpqua Hot Springs.

Umpqua hot springs in the mountains above Toketee Falls. Just north of Crater Lake is the Toketee Lake campground. A small, no frills campground for $10/night, we took it because on one end was the spectacular Toketee Falls in Southern Oregon with a spectacular display of basalt rock at its base after a short hike. At the other end (well, 2 miles up a dirt road,) was the amazing Umpqua Hot Springs.

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Fine Art Landscape Photography

Lake Tahoe Landscape Photographer

Scott Sady is a freelance and fine art landscape photographer based in Lake Tahoe and Reno. Scott specializes in Lake Tahoe landscape photography, Sierra landscape photography, Reno and Lake Tahoe stock images and freelance and photojournalism. Scott is available for freelance photography assignments in the Reno and Lake Tahoe area.