Memaloose Falls and South Fork Clackamas River

Discussions and Trip Reports for off-trail adventures and rediscovering lost trails
Post Reply
User avatar
BrianEdwards
Posts: 2401
Joined: February 2nd, 2010, 1:32 am
Location: Oregon City, OR
Contact:

Memaloose Falls and South Fork Clackamas River

Post by BrianEdwards » February 2nd, 2010, 7:44 pm

Greetings fellow Portland Hikers, looks like I found a place were people share the same craving for adventure like I do. I've spent my life Hiking and exploring the Hillockburn and Memaloose areas. Anyway today I decided to head to Memaloose Falls and the South Fork Clackamas River. I went up here yesterday and it was snowing so I turned back. Today tho was beautiful hiking weather. I ended up getting a late start tho, ~12:30pm. I approached the area from Memaloose Rd above Memaloose Creek. About a mile+ up the road is the first closed off spur road on the right. I parked here to start the Hike. Here's a view of the road from my truck
Image

Continue down this old road til you can see its end, then turn and head down hill, angling slightly right. Once you are about 10 feet up from the water, head down stream at this elevation til you get to a man-made bench in the hill, the first tunnel will be in sight shortly. Here's the bench.
Image

Here's a closer look at the top of the tunnel.
Image

Make your way through the tunnel, which is big enough to fit a car or pickup through. Its around 100 feet long. Here's a view from the other end looking back.
Image

Continue down the old road about 100 feet and find a good place to make your scramble down to the creek. Memaloose Falls is down and to the left. Here's where I made the scramble.
Image

Make sure you angle to the left at a 45 degree or better, don't get to the water too quick, as you'll be forced to climb back up. Continue on and Memaloose Falls will come into view. Here it is.
Image

Once you have your fill, turn back and head to the road. This part isn't fun but do-able. Once back on the old road, continue on. Here's a pic of the road.
Image

After ~1/4 mile, you'll come to the bridge over the South Fork Clackamas River. The immediate end of the bridge is washed out approx. two feet from the bank so a small jump is in order. Here's the bridge.
Image

Another view of the bridge looking upstream.
Image

Now you have a decision to make. The road forks on the west side of the bridge. Left takes you up to the infamous rotten log bridge and the 300 ft upper tunnel. Right takes you to the lower falls and a set of double tunnels. BUT if you want a picture of the big 120+ ft tall Clackamas Falls, you must turn back. That's what I did. Turn back, cross the bridge, and in 50 feet, on the right is an old spur road down to Memaloose Creek. Take this spur and ford the creek. Its only 10-14 inches deep but its movin and wide enough it will get you wet. Once across, head downstream and then turn up the South Fork Clackamas River. The walking here is fairly easy but there are two scrambles up the bank to avoid deep pools. Here's a view looking upriver.
Image

At the site of the last scramble, you can see the rotten log bridge across from you about 60+ feet up the hill.
Image

Another 200 feet and you're at Clackamas Falls. This waterfall is quite a site.
Image

Once you get your fill of the falls, head back downstream. Re-ford Memaloose and cross the bridge. On the bridge you can see where Memaloose Creek flows into the South Fork. Here's a shot from the bridge looking upstream.
Image

To get to the lower falls, turn right and head down river. in about 1/4 mile, you will get to the double tunnels. Here's a view of the tunnels looking back upriver.
Image

About 50 feet outside the last of the two tunnels, you'll see a faint trail leading down to the water. Bail off and follow this to water's edge and the Lower Clackamas Falls will come into view. Here it is.
Image

After getting your fill, head back the way you came. Cross the bridge, continue up the road, and back through the Memaloose tunnel. The hardest part of the whole trip is the scramble from this tunnel back up to the spur road. I've done it twice and both times I've said never again. Numerous slides make this a tricky climb.

All in all, I did this hike in 2 hrs and 42 minutes, but this was speed hiking. I didn't go to the forth and longest tunnel by the log bridge due to time constraints. There are two more impressive falls above this other tunnel that need a route scouted to/from. But until then fellow hikers, be safe and I'll be seein ya!
Last edited by BrianEdwards on February 9th, 2011, 1:28 pm, edited 10 times in total.

User avatar
Don Nelsen
Posts: 3702
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Vancouver, WA

Re: Memaloose Falls and South Fork Clackamas River

Post by Don Nelsen » February 2nd, 2010, 7:50 pm

Hi Brian,

Wow! - I did not know about any of this and many thanks for letting us all know! Those tunnels are amazing - do you know their history?

I've spent 80% of my time in the gorge these past 30 years or so and only rarely ventured elsewhere so again, thank for for your great post and pictures.

Don
"Everything works in the planning stage".

User avatar
Sore Feet
Posts: 742
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Seattle, WA
Contact:

Re: Memaloose Falls and South Fork Clackamas River

Post by Sore Feet » February 2nd, 2010, 8:04 pm

Well this solves all just about all the problems I had seen regarding access to that set of falls quite succinctly. Outstanding job Brian!

User avatar
BrianEdwards
Posts: 2401
Joined: February 2nd, 2010, 1:32 am
Location: Oregon City, OR
Contact:

Re: Memaloose Falls and South Fork Clackamas River

Post by BrianEdwards » February 2nd, 2010, 8:05 pm

Hey Don, these tunnels are part of what once was the Oregon City Water Works. At the top of the falls they diverted water into pipes that went through the tunnels. You can see the pipe in the bridge pics. The main problem is that there's no easy way getting in there. Other than the route I took, its either 400-500 feet straight down from the closest point, or you can cross the big clackamas and hike up. You could also hike 3/4 mile down the big Clackamas from the Memaloose bridge but poison oak is fairly prevelant doin this. There are two more falls upstream of the big one, but a footpath to them needs to be scouted.
Last edited by BrianEdwards on February 5th, 2010, 10:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.

RobFromRedland
Posts: 977
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

Re: Memaloose Falls and South Fork Clackamas River

Post by RobFromRedland » February 2nd, 2010, 9:09 pm

According to the south fork water board http://www.sfwb.org/history.html, the pipes were used up until about 1985. I think the keepers house down by the clackamas was probably removed in the 60's. This is an impressive hike, though, I did it a few weeks ago. Didn't get to see the Memaloose falls, though. I need to go back up there and get a better look at all the falls.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: WOW-What a ride!

User avatar
BrianEdwards
Posts: 2401
Joined: February 2nd, 2010, 1:32 am
Location: Oregon City, OR
Contact:

Re: Memaloose Falls and South Fork Clackamas River

Post by BrianEdwards » February 3rd, 2010, 12:58 am

<deleted by author>
Last edited by BrianEdwards on February 5th, 2010, 10:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Peder
Posts: 3397
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:02 pm
Location: Lake Oswego

Re: Memaloose Falls and South Fork Clackamas River

Post by Peder » February 3rd, 2010, 2:02 am

Welcome to this site Brian! That looks like a very interesting area and I am sure that the terrain will thrill my son. Many thanks for sharing; I look forward to exploring those tunnels and waterfalls.
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…

RobFromRedland
Posts: 977
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

Re: Memaloose Falls and South Fork Clackamas River

Post by RobFromRedland » February 3rd, 2010, 6:10 am

Just a caution - This isn't a "little kids" hike. There are a few areas where someone could get hurt if they weren't careful. It should be considered an off trail trip, with proper caution taken. For the most part, it is an easy hike, but there are a few areas where you have to be very careful. If you are going to go through the upper (long) tunnel, make sure you bring a good headlamp or flashlight. That tunnel is very long, gets very dark and has lots of stuff to trip on. But it is a very cool trip.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: WOW-What a ride!

The C-Ws
Posts: 337
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: SW Portland
Contact:

Re: Memaloose Falls and South Fork Clackamas River

Post by The C-Ws » February 3rd, 2010, 7:20 am

Wow, thanks for the report and welcome to the site. I've been in there three times now, once scrambling a mile down the bank of the main Clackamas, the other times scrambling straight down the slope several hundred feet from the bend on Memaloose Road. Your way is clearly better, however.

Have you been to the two upper waterfalls? If so, how hard is the access from the top of the main falls? Does the road/trail continue?

Thanks,

--Casey

RobFromRedland
Posts: 977
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

Re: Memaloose Falls and South Fork Clackamas River

Post by RobFromRedland » February 3rd, 2010, 8:07 am

One other thing: There is currently a logjam on the South Fork just before it dumps into the Clackamas. It is so thick, it is basically a bridge and allows you to cross over the South Fork Pretty easily. There are also a few remains down by the river (an old cable crossing and foundation from the keepers house, as well as an old fire hydrant).
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: WOW-What a ride!

Post Reply