Columbia River Gorge & Proxy falls

The second day of my Oregon trip was spent trying to catch a sunrise at one of the Columbia River Gorge overlooks along the Historic Columbia River Highway. The morning proved to be a tough one with not a single ray of light to be found due to the heavy cloud cover. While I was a little bummed about the sunrise, I was stoked about having another overcast day to do some more waterfall Photography. The overlooks along the scenic highway are a perfect way to spend a morning in the area. 

We decided to take a 3 hour trip and head south to one of the top locations on my list – Proxy Falls. Proxy Falls is located in the Three Sisters Wilderness off of McKenzie Highway, deep in the mountains. The drive to the area was amazing and continued to look promising all morning. Promising to me – cloudy. That was the case until we passed along the Southern face of the mountains which border Detroit Lake. I couldn’t believe it, but we literally rounded the corner and were greeted with a high pressure system of crystal blue skies. While it was really great to see such a beautiful landscape, I have to admit I was a little disappointed because I had a pretty good feeling that part of the waterfalls would be in direct sunlight. We pressed on, stopping for a nice lunch at Belknap Springs Resort along the McKenzie River a short 20 mins from the beginning of the falls trail head. Our lunch was fantastic and we found a great place to stay the night for future trips out to the falls.

The falls trail is a short 1.5 mile path which takes you through a large volcanic rock landscape that is a sight to see unto itself. The combination of dark volcanic rock and old growth forest was an amazing juxtaposition of nature. The fir trees along the path are gigantic elders that have stood for hundreds of years. As you get close to the falls, you can begin to hear the water falling over the 262 foot vertical drop. A short zig zag back and forth down a small hill and you can make your way over to the bottom of the falls. The main body of the falls cascades over volcanic rock and a large area of columnar basalt formations. Much of these are continuously wet and are covered in moss and other plant life. The numerous steps of the rock formations give way to a wide veil type falls as it widens all the way to the base. As expected, the falls was partially lit by the beaming sun, which made photographing the entire falls very problematic for me. I made the best of it – after all, It is breathtaking sight and I was able to work out some compositions while we explored the area. We spent a about an hour and a half there before making the trip back to the car and then onto our hotel. On the way back to Portland, we stopped for some dinner in the small town of Mill City and had the absolute BEST PIZZA ever. If you are in the area, be sure to stop by Giovanni’s Mountain Pizza. You wont be disappointed.

Blue hour over the Columbia River, OR © Rob Loughrey
Blue hour over the Columbia River, OR © Rob Loughrey
Moss covered columnar basalt at Proxy Falls, Three Sisters Wilderness, OR © Rob Loughrey
Moss covered columnar basalt at Proxy Falls, Three Sisters Wilderness, OR © Rob Loughrey
Proxy falls - Three Sisters Wilderness, OR © Rob Loughrey
Proxy falls – Three Sisters Wilderness, OR © Rob Loughrey