Chasing Waterfalls

Hey Oregon urbanites! Wanna shake off your cabin fever? Join us for a tour of a few of Oregon's secret waterfalls near Salem & Portland...

story & photos by Kirstin Grace-Simons

Don't know if it's because the human body is mostly water or if it's something more primal. Heck, maybe it's just the allure of chaos and danger. No matter the reason, there's something about the powerful crash of a waterfall that makes my heart rush.

I recently took a day trip to visit some waterfalls near my home in Salem, Oregon. And part of their appeal is that they aren't the obvious choices. Sure, I could have gone to Multnomah Falls. (And if you haven't been there, go. Go right now.) But if you've already hit the obvious, you might just be ready for my underground tour of waterfalls.

All of these waterfalls can be found along Back Country Byways, the BLM's designation for a scenic route. A Back Country Byway is a place to get lost. (Well, not literally.) But you'll lose your cares of the urban and routine to enjoy a unique beauty and solace that you can't find amongst the tourists and camera phones. And you'll also find waterfalls.


If you want to slink right up and stand within the spray, Alsea Falls is your destination. The South Fork Alsea Back Country Byway is an easy day trip from metropolitan areas near Portland and Salem. Just make sure to keep your wits about you and watch the young ones because even a river as welcoming as the Alsea can sweep you away pretty quickly. Enjoy the recreation site and the short hike to the river and falls. The lower rocks are slippery, and the path is only accessible for the sure-footed. For more information and directions, visit http://on.doi.gov/15gqmR0.

Chasing Waterfalls
photo by Kirstin Grace-Simons


Each creek that sneaks into the Quartzville offers an opportunity for a waterfall. You can catch a glimpse of trickles to tall cascades along the roadside or through the trees across the width of the creek. The Quartzville Corridor is managed by a collection of agencies, both county and Federal. Directions and info at http://on.doi.gov/pAK7FQ.


You are pretty well lost in the woods when you visit the Nestucca Back Country Byway. Falls can be found all along the winding river. The river itself has many steps and rapids, diminutive yet powerful. With small campsites on the river's edge, you can stay a while and explore the falls that reach into the wooded hills as well as the tiny one-foot wonders. Visit it online at http://on.doi.gov/14VtO2j.

Visit more of Oregon's waterfalls online.