Chasing Waterfalls at Oneonta Gorge

Every time I think about it, I get excited again.

Oneonta Gorge is in the Columbia River Gorge, a National Scenic Area in Oregon, stretching over 80 miles and 4000 feet deep. A place like this has many little nooks and crannies to explore, and Oneonta Gorge was The One I had my eye on since the very first Google click of things to do and see here.

It’s a short, narrow walk within a Gorge that leads to a waterfall, Lower Oneonta Falls. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a sight that still leaves me amazed now. Everything was magical: the way the sun above reflected the clear water, little streams from the waterfall we were yet to see, on the mossy green sides of the gorge, making mesmerising dancing waves of light. Even the bright moss just felt other worldly, like you were in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Before I try to prove my words with pictures, I want to tell you that this beauty didn’t come easy. Our first obstacle was small, but significant to us at the time: there was water in our path, everywhere. We would either have to nimbly step from one slightly uncovered stone to the other (nigh on impossible) or get our shoes wet. Obviously we chose the latter, but that squealchyness was hard to get used to at first.

Oneonta GorgeOneonta Gorge

We had another situation, anyway. Blocking us was a massive mound of logs and rocks, jagged and no way to get past without completely committing to the task. We tactfully planned out our footing, confering about who had the better suggestion or whether one of the many other people on this Obstacle of Death looked like they were on the right wavelength.

Looking back, it would have been wise not to take my bag so I could concentrate… but that would mean leaving my camera behind. And I’m sorry, but that’s just not what a travel blogger does. Somehow, switching ownership between myself and my boyfriend Alan, we managed to manoeuvre not only ourselves, but my camera and GoPro, stopping for pictures on questionable surfaces.

Oneonta Gorge

This is just the start of it…

Getting to the end of our log-clambering!

Getting to the end of our log-clambering!

If we thought that simply getting our feet wet was a problem, we then had another thing coming. Namely, a chest-high section of water that you had no choice but to wade through. So, camera in bag and bag on top of my head, we waded. The water was beautifully clear, but so freakin’ freezing. And you could see it on everyone’s faces: the shock and the grimace, and the realisation that all you can do is keep on wading. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so unified with other women keeping their stuff from getting wet and coping with icy boobs.

Other than that, our dip was actually quite refreshing! A bit more worn than we were before, now we could hear the waterfall. And before long (because there were no more ridiculous obstacles left), we were there. The waterfall didn’t thunder down; it was the smallest we had seen that day. But it was the sight of it along with everything else leading up to it.

Oneonta Gorge

Oneonta Gorge

Bands of light would come streaming down – like they do when clouds part after a storm – and you’d see the mist from the waterfall rising up and glinting in the spotlight, similar to when dust catches the light. Lower Oneonta Falls seemed like the perfect secret, a place to genuinely enjoy nature. Which apparently was interpreted so by others, as a strong smell of weed lingered in the air. This was odd to me, not because of the smell, but because of the city and suburban places I’m used to smelling it. Out in the middle of relatively nowhere while viewing a picturesque waterfall was somewhere and a mix of senses I wasn’t expecting. But I guess it makes sense!

I could hardly tear myself away from this little trail we had found ourselves on. But it was time to head back, and clamber over the logs and rocks again… as much as I complain, it felt invigorating to have an experience which involved all of me; the physical clambering, mentally working out footing, shocked by cold water but warmed by the sun, and the awe of what was all around me.

If I could, I would have stayed here all day, waiting and watching to see what tricks the light would play on Oneonta Gorge next.

Oneonta Gorge

Oneonta Gorge



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