I checked a "never hiked it!" trail off my list last week with a visit to Drift Creek Falls. I've really started to long for my favorite Gorge hikes that I typically do in winter, so am continuing to visit other waterfall trails within a couple hours of Portland. This one has always been interesting, but is close to 3 hours from North Portland with traffic factored in, so has a steep access price as a day hike. This is also one I'd recommend doing in other than the winter months, as the forest was a bit bleak without seasonal greenery -- but beautiful and fun, nonetheless! It's a short, family-friendly hike reached on mostly paved roads.
It poured pretty much the whole time I was there, and so I only pulled out my big camera and tripod for a few minutes while at the creekside viewpoint of the falls. Otherwise, my poor iPhone spent a lot of time in the rain! The trail is very wide and well-used, so enjoyed the luxury of using my umbrella on this one -- I highly recommend that on a rainy, as the Forest Service also keeps the trail well brushed and the canyon is protected from wind, so it's sort of a treat to keep your top third dry!
The suspension bridge is impressive, though a bit spooky if you're not a fan of heights. I also discovered that to see the falls, you MUST cross the suspension bridge... gulp! I'm not a huge fan of bouncy, swinging bridges hanging 100 feet above a rocky gorge on rusty cables, but had the good fortune of following another group across the first time, so that helped distract me from examine the rusty bolts and anchors supposedly supporting this ill-conceived disaster-in-the-making...
I do regret not getting to this falls before the massive cliff collapse in August 2010 that completely changed the cliffs around the falls, and the waterfall, itself. It's still raw and dramatic to look at, though the Forest Service interpretive brochure/map for the hike hasn't been updated to tell this very interesting story. If you look at older photos of the falls on our Field Guide, you can see how the old cliff face was completely undercut by Drift Creek, so it's pretty easy to see what triggered this collapse. Amazingly, it doesn't seem to have been witnessed by anyone, despite the summer crowds on this trail! Wow!
So, some photos from the trip, starting with a long exposure from my big camera at the stream side viewpoint at the end of the trail -- the huge boulders at the base of the falls are from the cliff collapse in 2010. The suspension bridge can be seen in the upper left:
The very large trailhead has toilets, a signboard with interpretive trail guides and even disabled parking!
Lots of recovering forests in this heavily logged area. This is an odd Douglas fir plantation draped in lichens and moss:
Ancient stump from when old growth towered over this area more than a century ago -- the scars are more recent, when it served as cable anchor for modern logging:
Red Alders growing along a side stream -- a rare sight in logged areas like this as they are usually killed with herbicides to speed up the plantation conifer growth:
Upper footbridge over Drift Creek:
Freshly repaired slide area just before the big suspension bridge:
"Nurse log" cut for the trail, with its nursed seedlings now a large tree:
Sure, I think it'll hold two people... and me... and my heavy pack full of camera gear... gulp...
Looking back at the rearranged top of Drift Creek Falls -- all of the columnar basalt here was exposed when the cliff collapsed:
The view downstream from the suspension bridge, with the debris from the cliff collapse filling the canyon floor at the base of the falls:
A wider view from the bridge:
Phone view of the falls and debris from the end of the trail, along the creek:
Long exposure with my big camera from the end of the trail:
Trail map from the USFS brochure:
Rainy, with a long drive... but there is no bad day on the trail!
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