Elowah Falls | Columbia River Gorge
Elowah Falls and Upper McCord Creek Falls in the Columbia River Gorge are prime locations to photograph waterfalls. I feel that both of these waterfalls are hidden gems as I have visited many of the falls in the area and these two stand out as favorites. In visiting both falls, my roundtrip hiking distance was 3 miles with some parts of the trail fairly steep, yet overall, it was a very comfortable hike and one that I will remember for its beauty.
Elowah Falls is the first waterfall along the trail and is the better one for photography; since the trail takes you right up to the fall’s large punchbowl and the area is wide open to explore and find the perfect vantage point to shoot from. On a warm day, the area surrounding the falls would be an ideal destination for a picnic. The cliffs on both sides of Elowah Falls form a stone-like amphitheater around the waterfall and are flanked with brightly colored green-yellow lichen which add interest to the scene. I found that with the magnitude of water pouring from the waterfall, as well as the constant spray, photography near the punchbowl was not going to yield any pleasant shots, so I hiked back down the trail and scrambled down to McCord Creek to take shots from the creek and looking up towards Elowah Falls. Here I found a couple of prized vantage spots and spent the next couple of hours taking photos intermittingly testing various shutter speed and my graduated neutral density filter.
Pleased with my experience at Elowah Falls and hopeful that I got a good shot, I hiked back up along the trail I came to the sign which gave the short distance to Upper McCord Creek Falls. After a few minutes of hiking, I was very surprised to see that the trail continues through steep solid rock as the trail makers must have blasted out the rock to create a ledge that continued for a couple hundred feet. At this point it was very steep with water dripping on me from the rock ceiling. There are a couple of good vantage points to take photographs of the Columbia River from this point and there is a metal railing to keep you safe, as the drop is a straight one down countless feet.
I reached the viewpoint to Upper McCord Creek Falls where I was shocked to see the size and magnitude of the waterfall. I took a few photographs of the falls and then continued shortly up the trail to where the trail ends. At this point, you are above the falls and next to McCord Creek. I really did not find a very good vantage point from which to shoot the falls as the trail does not take you down the base of the falls. Rather, the view is from a distance looking slightly down and I would be hard pressed to find a unique shot of the waterfall. I did take, however, a picture of Upper McCord Creek from above the falls and I like this photograph because it captures the movement of the creek yet the colorful creek bottom is entirely in view. I like the simplicity of the photo as the image has no true subject; just capturing the smooth flow of the water is what I was after.
I recommend the short trip to Elowah Falls and Upper McCord Creek Falls as both a top destination in Oregon for landscape photography but also as one to hike and explore. The varying scenery and trail make it an interesting and fun hike with just the right amount of distance and elevation gain. Both falls make for a perfect family hike too.
For more pictures of the Columbia Gorge and Oregon photography, visit www.oregonfoto.com.
To Get There:
Drive east from Portland on Interstate 84 and take the Dodson exit (exit 37). Just after exiting the highway, turn left and take a frontage road for 2 miles to John B. Yeon State Park. The trailhead is 37 miles east of Portland. Be careful as this State Park is just a few parking spaces right alongside the road and there are numerous car break-ins in this area.