Astoria’s Backdoor Byway

November 16, 2012

It’s time for a wonderful whistle-stop tour of waterfalls and wildlife with a noted landscape photographer along Astoria’s little-known “backdoor byway.”


Little trails often lead to big discoveries, and that’s when a camera comes in handy for Oregon’s premier landscape photographer Steve Terrill. We strolled along the short graveled trail at Lee Wooden County Park – just off State Highway 202 – and spotted the numerous little signs of the seasonal change; mostly measured by the colorful maple and alder leaves that were in a state of free fall. Terrill called the blizzard of leaves the “little parts that make a bigger, better picture.” Terrill likes to have fun along the little-known backdoor byway that connects the valley to the coast through the heart of the Oregon Coast range.

He likes to hook up with Highway 202 just off Highway 26 and slowly wind through the mountains.  Lee Wooden Park is one of many photo opportunities that Terrill likes to explore on this road. He is especially drawn to the stunning and gorgeous Fishhawk Falls that races across the exposed and jagged ancient basalt. “I capture what nature puts out in front of me,” said the famed photographer. “That is really all I do. Anyone can. Just open your eyes and look at the different things that really make this a natural backdrop for my photography.”

Just a couple miles down the road, large elk lounge across the grassy meadows of the Jewell Wildlife Area. Terrill makes the many easy-to-reach viewing sites a must-stop on his trip. He scanned the scene, searched for movement and soon found the life in the landscape. Two yearling elk rose up on hind legs and boxed at each other with their front legs – it was an elk sparring match as the two youngsters tested each other.

It‘s interesting to see one of Oregon’s premier landscape photographers – now on his chosen path for more than three decades – working a favored haunt that anyone can visit. It’s also fun to pick out the little things that he does to make his photos special.

“First, a tripod – it’s an absolute must and so is the cable release,” said Terrill. “Just for vibration and to be on the safe side because if I’m cold, I could shake the scene and ruin the shot. That’s how I shoot.”

Does he ever! Here’s proof: 2013 is year nine for Steve Terrill’s “All Oregon” Calendar.  His annual project pays homage to his home state – shot entirely in Oregon by the native son who has it printed here too.

“Well, I was born and raised in Portland and I just absolutely love Oregon! If I can keep the money and the jobs – even just a little bit because we’re not a huge company by any means, but if I can keep that in Oregon then I think I’m helping a little bit.”

A half hour down the byway, Terrill helps himself to all the scenery surrounding one of his favorite waterfalls in all of the state: Youngs River Falls. Don’t forget to peer into the shallows just below the falls; mottled black and grey, several 30-pound salmon have muscled their way back to Youngs River, their birthplace and now the end of the line as they continue their cycle of life.

This byway unwinds along Youngs Bay at Astoria, and Terrill finds that each mile of the trip is wonderful and that so much beauty is so close to so many people.

“If folks only take the time to look – they’ll see what I see too! In my heart, I love to capture images of Oregon and I like to share them with people. I am really blessed to make a living at it too.”

About The

Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.