Sheep Creek and Soda Fork Falls off of the Santiam Hwy

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Rustygoat
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Sheep Creek and Soda Fork Falls off of the Santiam Hwy

Post by Rustygoat » June 3rd, 2013, 9:01 pm

While cruising Google Earth, I noticed a couple of waterfalls that looked pretty interesting but I couldn't find out any info or pictures of either. Friday 5/31 Melinda and I headed south to chase down some waterfalls around the South Santiam Highway 20. On the way there we stopped off at McDowell Creek Falls Park to check out the waterfalls there. Me and Melinda at Majestic Falls, waterfall number 200 for the second year in a row. :)
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After visiting the four waterfalls there we headed out highway 20 and stopped off to see Rainbow Falls just south of Cascadia State Park. First strike out of the trip...the road was closed. :cry: There was a logging operation going on so no Rainbow Falls for us today.
It was getting a little late in the day so we headed east to House Rock Campground. I picked out this campground to stay in because it had a hiking trail to a waterfall and it had a rock that was as big as a house. :lol: The large rock lies on the old Santiam Wagon Road and use to be used as a shelter for travelers. There is a cave underneath it. After finding a nice place to camp we headed to the trail head to go check out House Rock Falls before dinner. Noooo.... bridge out across the South Santiam River. :( Strike two for the day. We could still see the falls by hiking in a couple of miles from another trail head, but not tonight. Lucky for us we found a large log that was spanning the river...right below House Rock. :D There is a little stream that runs through the cave under the rock that makes the little waterfall.
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Me under House Rock. Pretty big under here.
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House Rock Falls was only a short hike away, in no time we were there. Melinda at House Rock Falls.
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We got back to camp before dark and talked with a local guy that was making rounds through the area campgrounds. He had never heard of any waterfalls up Sheep Creek or Soda Fork Creek. No help there but we did thank him for keeping the campground in such nice shape. No graffiti or garbage anywhere...a very nice place to stay.
Saturday 6/1 we got an early start and headed out to see if we could find Sheep Creek Falls. The falls are located less than a couple of miles north of the highway. We found ourselves looking down a really steep and brushy hill above Sheep Creek. This looked pretty crazy so before we went down I decided to check out an old logging road I had seen while looking at a topo of the area. We were able to drive all the way down to the creek on the old road. This looked pretty promising so we crossed Sheep Creek where the road was washed out.
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The old road was easy hiking.
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I found a nice game trail that had a lot of fresh elk tracks that headed right down to the creek. In no time I was looking at the top of the falls. We found an easy scramble down and found a really nice view of the falls. Sheep Creek Falls, about 60ft tall.
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After taking a bunch of pictures we headed back to the highway and out a little farther east to Tombstone Pass. There is supposed to be a waterfall below Heart Lake that we wanted to check out but the road there was in sad shape and too overgrown to drive down. The other route there was blocked by snow. We could have hiked up there but I really wanted to try and find Soda Fork Falls.
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Back west we headed to Soda Fork Road and headed north up NF2041. I couldn't see a good view from Google Earth of the falls but I could tell there had to be a significant drop because of the terrain. I turned off on NF2043 and followed it up a couple of miles to an old logging road that ended facing where the falls should be. The sound of falling water could be heard echoing through the valley as we eagerly made our way through the brush. We came out at the top of a cliff and this is what we saw...
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The cliff was pretty steep and the trek was doable but Melinda was healing up from an injury the week before and I opted to not bushwhack to the falls. Which ended up being a really good choice in the end. We drove north upstream from the falls and ended back on NF2041 heading south. I don't own a GPS unit but the one in my head works pretty well most of the time. :P I pulled over in a bend in the road and we bushwhacked our way out to the cliff where the falls were. To our surprise we found an awesome view of the falls. :mrgreen: Soda Fork Falls, about 150ft tall.
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I'll try and get a video up later this week...pictures don't do this waterfall justice.
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On the way out we saw some tracks that didn't belong to and elk or deer. Kitty :shock:
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Still time in the day to kill we headed west again to Falls Creek. There is supposed to be four waterfalls located on this creek. The roads were pretty twisty and there were so many junctions it took a bit to figure out exactly where we were. I didn't have the greatest map of the area because this was only a bonus stop. Luckily I figured out where we needed to be and we headed down to find Falls Creek Falls. The creek was very small and we looked along a large section of the creek looking for the waterfall. This was the largest drop we could find in the area. Falls Creek Falls?
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Heading back down the road we looked a little for the middle waterfall but didn't go down creek far enough. We did end up finding the lower fall though. Lower Falls Creek Falls, about 20ft tall.
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It was getting late in the day and we had to get back to Portland but I thought we could make a quick stop at High Deck Falls. Sadly the road was closed because of logging here also. But there was one more waterfall in the area we could check out. Moose Creek Falls is supposed to be on the side of the road. We could hear the creek and kind of see some rapids but the better view was from the east side of the creek. We drove to the other side of the creek and bushwhacked our way down to the creek right as we got to the edge of the creek I looked down and saw something I really didn't want to see...poison oak. :o :x I really hate that plant! The falls weren't much to look at or worth taking out the camera, just a series of rapids. Melinda didn't walk into the clearing like I did but she scrubbed up with tecnu and put on a fresh set of clothes with me just to be safe....we both really don't like that plant. Thank goodness we made it out alive to post a TR. :lol:
Tim

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BrianEdwards
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Re: Sheep Creek and Soda Fork Falls off of the Santiam Hwy

Post by BrianEdwards » June 3rd, 2013, 9:14 pm

Great goin guys. Soda Fork is impressive! Sheep Creek is pretty stellar too. I have no doubt you'll be at 365 by the fall.
Clackamas River Waterfall Project - 95 Documented, 18 to go.


payslee

Re: Sheep Creek and Soda Fork Falls off of the Santiam Hwy

Post by payslee » June 4th, 2013, 12:24 pm

Thanks for the vid! Stunning.

-payslee

aywolfpac
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Re: Sheep Creek and Soda Fork Falls off of the Santiam Hwy

Post by aywolfpac » June 4th, 2013, 1:49 pm

Wow! Soda Fork Falls is fantastic.

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Sore Feet
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Re: Sheep Creek and Soda Fork Falls off of the Santiam Hwy

Post by Sore Feet » June 4th, 2013, 10:17 pm

You guys rock. I've ran out of light the last two times I was down in the South Santiam area and never got a chance to explore the Soda Fork, so knowing that a view like that is accessible is fantastic. Looks like that one absolutely must be tagged from the base though.

I've been pretty skeptical about Falls Creek since Google added some Lidar mapped terrain for that area. It looks like the lower one you found may be the most waterfally of the four mapped drops, and I'm suspecting the uppermost drop may just be a long run of cascades (and if not, it looks like a really nasty bushwhack to get a good view of it). It also looks like Falls Creek might be part of a microhydro system, because there's a narrow road-like clearing that leads right to a small pond along the creek upstream from the upper falls - which would explain the low volume you're seeing.

Definitely going to have to take a longer look at that area sooner rather than later.

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Rustygoat
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Re: Sheep Creek and Soda Fork Falls off of the Santiam Hwy

Post by Rustygoat » June 6th, 2013, 6:40 pm

Sore Feet wrote:You guys rock. I've ran out of light the last two times I was down in the South Santiam area and never got a chance to explore the Soda Fork, so knowing that a view like that is accessible is fantastic. Looks like that one absolutely must be tagged from the base though.

I've been pretty skeptical about Falls Creek since Google added some Lidar mapped terrain for that area. It looks like the lower one you found may be the most waterfally of the four mapped drops, and I'm suspecting the uppermost drop may just be a long run of cascades (and if not, it looks like a really nasty bushwhack to get a good view of it). It also looks like Falls Creek might be part of a microhydro system, because there's a narrow road-like clearing that leads right to a small pond along the creek upstream from the upper falls - which would explain the low volume you're seeing.
You are right about seeing Soda Fork from the bottom Bryan. It may be difficult though with the spray at the base. It's hard to see, but look at my view of the falls from the south looking north at the cliff. There is a chute on the west side of the falls that I think can be traversed safely. To get to where we were at the falls, take NF2041 a little more than 4 1/2 miles north to a turn out and bushwhack down to the cliff. The chute can be accessed from this area as well. Sheep Creek Falls isn't too far away and is definitely worth checking out if you are in the area.

Thanks for shedding some light on Falls Creek. The upper fall area looked pretty bushy and the flow wasn't that great so we passed on even looking for it.
Tim

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bobcat
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Re: Sheep Creek and Soda Fork Falls off of the Santiam Hwy

Post by bobcat » June 7th, 2013, 1:12 pm

An excellent set of finds. Some of those falls are quite fetching. Thanks for posting your adventures!

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Loofus
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Re: Sheep Creek and Soda Fork Falls off of the Santiam Hwy

Post by Loofus » May 6th, 2014, 10:47 am

I haven't had time to post a full report as a follow-up to this, but I thought a quick reply here would be nice since this was the post that re-kindled my suicidal desires for thrashing around in the woods looking for waterfalls.

Anyway, my long-time waterfall hunting partner in crime and I finally made it to the base of Soda Fork Falls to verify that it is not only enormous, but also very complicated. The stream has incised such a narrow cleft in the rock that visibility of the main upper portion of the falls is limited to a few vantage points. This is mainly due to the heavy brush and timber along the bottom of the canyon as well as a bizarre network of cliffs and outcrops that shield almost any view that isn't straight-on. Jeff hauled his survey gear down and got several consistent height measurements. There are two parts to the falls: The upper main drop as seen in the above photos, and a the lower segmented tiers. The lower tiers are where it gets messy, because they turn a couple of corners and are highly obstructed by dense brush and gigantic boulders. All in all, the total height is right at about 400 feet. I would guess that the portion visible in the original post (from cliff top) is between 250 and 300 feet in height.
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Here's a crappy iPhone shot of Soda Fork Falls. The portion shown in the photo was measured at 300 feet.
We also paid a visit to Sheep Creek falls and measured it at 92 feet. Upper Soda Fork Falls was field-verified and is actually two waterfalls a short distance from each other. We didn't measure, but estimated that they are between 50 and 70 feet tall, each.

I'll try to post a full write-up in the next day or two.

Todd

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BrianEdwards
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Re: Sheep Creek and Soda Fork Falls off of the Santiam Hwy

Post by BrianEdwards » May 6th, 2014, 11:01 am

Nice!

Cracking 300 ft puts it into elite Oregon status
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