Love Letter to Oregon’s Waterfalls

February 6, 2015 (Updated January 19, 2017)

I am a big believer that back-road adventures — the ones that let you get a sneak peek at nature — are the very best!

I am particularly pleased when I have the chance to blend a bit of romance with my travels – the sort of romance that many couples appreciate to be sure, but also a nostalgic sort of romance where Oregon’s waterfalls are seen and heard and savored.


Sometimes that means traveling off the beaten path, where the asphalt turns to gravel and where nature’s touch restores the soul; so consider this week’s adventure a love letter to reach some favored and sure-to-please Oregon waterfalls.

While Oregon impresses people with its size and diversity and natural beauty, I cherish the nooks and crannies the most. Bridge Creek Falls in the Tillamook State Forest is an open invitation to romantics like me.

I’ve a love affair with its grace, beauty and absolute simplicity. It’s a love that carries across Oregon wherever water flows and falls to whirl and shimmer and ripple.

Bert Olheiser and Nancy J. Smith are head over heels in love with Oregon waterfalls too. The husband and wife team are photography pros who travel and capture Oregon with film and a camera. Bert is always by Nancy’s side, even on an otherwise grey-shaded drizzly day. She with the camera, and he with the gear. He even shields her camera lens from the light but constant rainfall.

“I’ll help her get to the spot and get the equipment set up,” said Olheiser. “And then I stand back and say, “Nancy, work your magic.”

The magic of Munson Creek Falls State Park is that the short hike to reach it lets you leave all distractions behind. “Oh, there’s so much to see in here…even the gorgeous white bark on these alder trees is just beautiful,” exclaimed Smith with a broad smile. As she clutched her well used Canon camera, she added, “I love what I do – can you tell?”

She prides herself in capturing a scene that puts you on the spot, fills you with pride for Oregon’s wonder and puts a smile on your face too. Smith said that her time in the outdoors is never about the destination, but what she might find in the small details along the journey. “I like ‘along the way’ and life is like that too; if we just take the time and try to do that, it’s so much better.”

I agree that the adventure of travel is everything! Especially in the kingdom of Oregon waterfalls: the Columbia River Gorge — where Shepperd’s Dell Falls rolls out of Youngs Creek in a foamy moment.

It is a waterfall that resembles a bowtie turned on its side: twisting and falling into a rocky cradle – but it is the back story that I enjoy the most. You see, romance strikes at the historic heart of Shepperd’s Dell.

George Shepperd opened Shepperd’s Dell Falls to the public in 1915. He was so in love with his wife that he wanted to share that same passionate feeling for her and this place with the larger public. So it was given to Oregon State Parks as a tribute to his wife. What a romantic!

“This really is a place where you can shut your cell phone off, turn the lap top off and re-connect with each other and with the past,” noted Diane McCclay, Oregon State Parks Ranger.

One mile east of Shepperd’s Dell, Bridal Veil State Park offers an easy stroll down a half mile trail. The park’s namesake falls is best enjoyed with someone special! You understand why when you stand on the viewing platform and gaze up at the 160-foot waterfall plunging twice in a wide, steep slide.

McClay added, “It looks the veil of a bride’s gown coming down and back. In fact, a lot of people get their wedding invitations stamped at the Bridal Veil Post Office, so there is a lot of nostalgia and a connection to that history.”

And aren’t we lucky that Oregon history and stunning scenic beauty are easy to reach at a state parkland called Silver Falls. You’ve many spectacular waterfalls to choose from when you visit the 9,000-acre state parkland. It offers a gorgeous trail of ten falls plus the rustic South Falls Lodge that stands large from rock and timber construction.

Oregon State Parks ranger Dorothy Brown-Kwaiser said, “The lodge is gorgeous and one of the highlights in Oregon. It is built of natural materials, timbers, big stonework and a huge, open room with big beams and a rustic feeling. There’s usually a fire going and just feels like a lodge, like you’re in a wilderness feeling surrounded by nature.”

Campers can let the romance last longer inside rental cabins that offer many of the comforts of home. (Reservations are advised for the cabins are popular.) And remember: rain gear and hiking boots will make your hiking adventures more comfortable in winter.

“It’s a bit quieter this time of year,” noted Kwaiser. “You experience things differently, more on your own without the crowds and so the sounds in the park are different. There are so many reasons to be here – but really, the waterfalls are at the center of everything at Silver Falls State Park.”

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.