Silver Falls is the largest state park in Oregon at over 9,000 acres. The highlight of the park is the Trail of Ten Falls, where hikers can see 10 terrific waterfalls on a 8-mile hike along a narrow canyon. The 65-foot Upper North Falls is the least-visited waterfall in the park because it’s a half-mile hike down a spur trail.
Four of the waterfalls drop into an amphitheater, allowing hikers to walk behind the spray to gain a rare perspective. Here Theresa is standing in a cavern behind the 136-foot North Falls, the second most popular waterfall in the park. A waterfall sounds much different when viewed from behind: it has a hollow, thunderous roar.
Even with so many wondrous waterfalls to see, I still took time to notice the little things, like this spider web shimmering in the morning sunlight.
The canyon’s formation began 26 million years ago when most of Oregon was covered by ocean. About 15 million years ago, the water receded, and volcanoes covered the sandstone ocean floor with basalt lava. The softer sandstone underneath the basalt eroded over time, creating pathways behind some of the waterfalls. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps widened some of these pathways to make them safe for public use. Here Theresa is walking behind the 106-foot Middle North Falls.
Even the relatively tiny 30-foot Lower North Falls was captivating as it flowed over a lava wall into a shimmering green pool.
The moss-covered trees reminded us of the rainforest at Olympic National Park. The nearby Silver Falls City was founded in 1888 primarily as a logging community. This area was originally covered with large old-growth Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock trees, but was extensively logged for over a decade. In 1900, photographer June Drake began a decades-long campaign to establish the area as a national park. But in 1926, the National Park Service rejected the idea because there were more “unattractive stumps” than majestic giant trees. Finally in 1933, the canyon and surrounding area was officially preserved as a state park.
The 93-foot Lower South Falls drops into a pretty pool.
The 177-foot South Falls is the highest and most popular waterfall in the park. In the 1920s, local businessman D.E. Geiser owned South Falls. He charged visitors 10 cents to view the waterfall, and a quarter or more to watch stunts such as pushing old cars over the falls! In 1928, Geiser charged visitors $1 each to watch daredevil Al Faussett ride over South Falls in a canoe. At least 2,000 people attended the stunt, but the park was so big that many spectators sneaked in without paying. To ensure his canoe cleared the rocky base of the falls, Faussett rigged a cable to pull the canoe out into the pool below. Unfortunately the cable snapped in the middle of his drop. Faussett survived but had to be hospitalized. Worse yet, Faussett’s manager disappeared with all his earnings. Faussett performed many other crazy stunts throughout his career, but he died in 1948 from kidney failure. The park created the annual “Al Faussett Days” holiday in 1995 to commemorate his stunt.