Some of the approaches to Multnomah Falls were closed following the wildfires of 2017. The waterfall, itself, was evacuated for a while. There is a parking lot next to the falls that fills up early. We beat the crowds by getting there by 8:30 am. That was fortunate, because the lot was full just a few hours later. Over 2 million people visit the falls every year.
This is the tallest waterfall in the State of Oregon, with a total drop of 620 feet, It first drops 543 feet into an upper plunge pool, meanders another 8 feet, then plunges another 69 feet to the bottom. The flow is usually highest in the winter and spring. A sign at the site claims that Multnomah is the second tallest waterfall in the United States, but the evidence does not support that. Even if it isn’t the second tallest, it certainly is stunningly beautiful, and well worth a visit.
There is an observation bridge, the Benson Bridge (built in 1914, and named for the man who owned the falls at the time) that passes in front of the first drop. At this point, there is a path to the top of the falls, but that has been closed due to rock slides. Work is being done to make these paths safe again.
Upper Fall and Plunge Pool
Lower Fall and Multnomah Creek
Multnomah Falls is one of 77 waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. This waterfall developed about 15,000 years ago, on Multnomah Creek, which is fed by underground springs from Larch Mountain. Beneath the falls, the creek empties into Benson Lake, and eventually into the Columbia River.
According to a Wasco legend, the waterfall was formed after the daughter of a Multnomah chief sacrificed herself to the Great Spirit to save their village from a plague by jumping from the cliff. After her death, her father asked the Great Spirit to give a sign that his daughter had been welcomed into the land of the spirits. Almost at once, water began to flow over the cliff, creating the waterfall. Another Native American legend says that Multnomah Falls was created to win the heart of a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe. Personally, I prefer the first story.
Multnomah Falls were noted in journals by Lewis and Clark during their 1805 expedition, when they traveled through the Columbia River Gorge.
While you’re in the area, and are interested in some magnificent views of the Gorge, pay a visit to Vista House, situated on a bluff 723 feet above the Columbia River.