I never realized the joy I found in waterfalls until I moved to Oregon.
Within my first year of living here, I thought I had seen them all. I had gone on many hikes, stopped off the Historic Columbia River Highway to see all of the Gorge waterfalls more than once, and my computer was so full of waterfall photos that I was having a hard time remembering which was which. Whenever I had out-of-town guests visiting, it became a ritual to take them to as many waterfalls as I could before they flew back home. I was enthralled.
One day I did extensive research to find a waterfall I hadn’t been to before. After reading through many articles, I stumbled upon Abiqua Falls. Located in Scotts Mills, this waterfall looked pretty spectacular. I began asking my friends about Abiqua, and none of them had been before or even heard of it. It wasn’t hard to convince a couple of my pals to go with me, so we set out to find this hidden gem. The directions online were a little confusing, and I will admit one website noted to “be careful, someone fell here.” I made the mistake of not writing anything down or taking a screen shot, and none of us had cell service to try and look them up again. We drove around for what felt like forever until the sun started to go down. Due to the lack of daylight, we ended our search. I was very disappointed but vowed not to give up my quest to find Abiqua Falls, which I then began calling “Ambiguous Falls.”
A few months later, I convinced my boyfriend to go with me to find Abiqua Falls. This time around I made sure to write down very clear directions as well as take screenshots of detailed maps and directions I found online. We already had a busy summer of trips, including a road trip across the country after we picked up a truck someone gave us for free. This would culminate our summer of adventures — if we could find the falls.
We drove to the town of Scotts Mills and then followed Crooked Finger Road for nearly 11 miles until the pavement ended. There was an unmarked road, which we hoped was the correct one, so we took a right and began going downhill for about 2.25 miles until the road ends and there is a gate in which you cannot travel any further past. This road is not for the faint of heart. It was steep, rocky and extremely rough. I didn’t know if our little beat up ’97 Chevy with only two-wheel drive was going to make it, and I couldn’t imagine taking a regular car down this road. At first, we debated just parking the truck and walking the rest of the way down, but decided to trudge on and finish the journey by car. There is space to park in front of the gate or along the road you came down. Once you park, walk about 100 feet back along the road and you’ll see a sign for the trail through the trees. Then you’ll have to hike a half-mile down a very steep hill to the creek and to the falls. Luckily near the end, there is a rope you can use to guide yourself down the hill — it wasn’t too muddy when we went, but I imagine it could be a slippery mess during the rainy season.
We finally made it and our jaws dropped as we took in the 92-feet-tall waterfall that free flowed from above. There was no one else around and it felt like it was all ours for the afternoon. Of all the waterfalls I had seen, this one was easily the best. We walked across the rocky base area and found a hollow log big enough for us to rest on. We sat on the edge of the rocks dipping our feet in the cold water and watching the formations in the shallow areas. It was a warm summer day and the sun was creating orbs in the air. And even standing a good distance away, we were baptized in the cataract.
After spending some time basking in the falls, we finally left and started driving up the rough hill to go home… and then our truck broke down. I started thinking about how this truck had made it across the country, but couldn’t take the journey back from Abiqua Falls. In a way it felt a little magical to me — that out of all the waterfalls in Oregon, the one I had the hardest time finding and marveled at the most did not want me to leave.