Gnat Creek Falls exploration 7-1-10

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BrianEdwards
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Gnat Creek Falls exploration 7-1-10

Post by BrianEdwards » July 1st, 2010, 9:05 am

With overcast skies forecast for the day, I decided to see if Gnat Creek Falls near Astoria was possible to get a look at. Access to Gnat Creek is off of Shingle Mill Rd, a few miles past Wauna on hwy 30. About halfway there, it started to rain, which meant I was in for another soaking bushwack. All-well, this is Oregon!

Using satelite images, I made my way up the forest roads til I got to a gate 0.9 miles from the top of the box canyon where the falls are. Just a few minutes before 5am I headed out. In no time I could hear the falls through the insanely thick brush. I ended up just pushing through the brush that was twice my height til I could see the creek, and the upper falls. They were a beaut'. Definitely in the 100 ft range, but not over that.

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I had read that there was two more 'major' tiers somewhere below this one, so I headed down. The going was extremely slow in this canyon, as the brush is quite thick and the hill is very steep and slick. Maybe 100 feet downstream was a ~15ft cascade. I snapped a shot in-case it was one of the so-called tiers.. Thankfully not!

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Now, maybe 200 ft downstream I could see a major horizon line in the creek. I made my way down to it and realized it was quite tall. After 15 minutes of making my way down the cliff/hill, it came into view. 60 ft range was my guess.

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A log made a nice bridge for which to take my shot on. To the left would be the falls shown above, and just to the right is the third tier.

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Just downstream of the log was the third tier. This one was only 35 ft tall but still cool.

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From here the creek flattens out and heads northwest.

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On the hike out, the views of the Columbia River from the old roadbed were quite nice.

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Well, Gnat Creek lived up to its name in the falls category, and the nasty bushwacking conditions stated by others. All in all I was back to the truck in 3 hours 15 minutes, soaked but satisfied.
Last edited by BrianEdwards on July 1st, 2010, 7:41 pm, edited 8 times in total.

aywolfpac
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Re: Gnat Creek Falls exploration 7-1-10

Post by aywolfpac » July 1st, 2010, 9:49 am

Sweet. That middle falls is very nice.

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Splintercat
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Re: Gnat Creek Falls exploration 7-1-10

Post by Splintercat » July 1st, 2010, 1:59 pm

Awesome, Brian! These are the first photos I've seen of the smaller drops -- there are a couple photos out there of the main falls as photographed from the rim of the canyon, but that's it. Here's some background on this area -- I've been tracking it for TKO purposes:

Here's a PDF map of the Gnat Creek Trail as it exists today

Here's the Clatsop State Forest Recreation Plan

On page 11, the recreation plan calls has the following objective for quiet recreation: "Build a non-motorized trail from Gnat Creek Fish Hatchery to Gnat Creek Falls." Hopefully, that will happen sooner than later! If possible, TKO can help this one along a bit. Gnat Creek gets quite impressive in winter, but it looked darned good in your photos with summer flows -- nicely done!

Tom :)

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Splintercat
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Re: Gnat Creek Falls exploration 7-1-10

Post by Splintercat » July 1st, 2010, 7:34 pm

A bit more research on this area, Brian -- first, a reference to seven waterfalls in this 1983 County plan:

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Also from the 1980s, Ralph Friedman's "In Search of Western Oregon" mentions the trip to the top:

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As you saw, the area around the falls has been heavily logged (probably explaining all the debris choking the smaller falls), and is on private land. This report from the Oregon Department of Forestry is encouraging:

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With luck, the area around the falls will come into public ownership, and we'll have a trail to the falls at some point in the future... looking forward to that!

Tom :)

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BrianEdwards
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Re: Gnat Creek Falls exploration 7-1-10

Post by BrianEdwards » July 1st, 2010, 8:41 pm

Wow Tom, thanks for the info. Dang I wish I would've known there was 7 drops and not just 3! And I can confirm that the area was heavily logged way back, as there are numerous 6ft stumps with springboard holes all over the canyon. If a trail ever does get punched in there, it'd be one worth checking out.

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Sore Feet
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Re: Gnat Creek Falls exploration 7-1-10

Post by Sore Feet » July 2nd, 2010, 4:59 pm

Good to finally see some pictures of the two lower sections, and having a rough estimate on the height from a reliable source gives me a good deal of information about the series. I talked with a guy who explored the two uppermost drops (there's one above the plunge) and he indicated to me the whole series of falls was in the realm of 250-300 feet tall, which the topo maps could MAYBE support in the most liberal sense but I wasn't quite buying it. I've also seen some historical photos of the plunge part of the falls dating back probably 100 years, so I think that may be the specific feature tagged with the official name. Whether the other sections are close or far enough apart that they'll need to be considered separate waterfalls remains to be seen. From what I can tell, I'd wager there's a case to be made that they be split into at least two groups of falls.

Now, regarding Tom's articles, I'd like to know how there can be seven waterfalls in less than a mile's run of stream which drop a total of 1500 feet but the largest drop is only 60 feet tall? Love the logic there. Whatever the case may be (I'll go with poor estimation on the original surveyor's part, or perhaps poor penmanship), there is no 1500 foot drop in anywhere near that distance along the creek. I don't doubt there ARE seven waterfalls along the creek, but they're not within a mile's stretch of the creek. I've long suspected one about a mile and a half downstream of the marked Gnat Creek Falls, and another about 2 miles downstream. I don't expect either to be over 50-60 feet if they do exist though.

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