OREGON'S MULTNOMAH FALLS
It was on Monday, the 23rd of June 2008, when our friends Ronnie and Mila Tandingan brought us to the
Multnomah Falls which is about twenty miles east of Portland, Oregon. It is a waterfall on the Oregon
side of the Columbia River Gorge, located east of Troutdale, between Corbett and Dodson, along the
Historic Columbia River Highway.
We were told that the Multnomah Falls is the second tallest year-round waterfall in the United States
after Yosemite Falls. Fed by underground springs from Larch Mountain, the flow over the falls varies,
usually it's highest during winter and spring. While at its best during winter and spring, this magnificent
sight is spectacular to see any time of the year. We were told that nearly two million visitors a year
come to see this ancient waterfall.
The falls drops in two major steps, split into an upper falls of 542 feet and a lower falls of 69 feet
with a gradual 9 foot drop in elevation between the two, so the total height of the waterfall is
conventionally given as 620 feet. The much taller upper falls is thinner and longer while the lower
section is wider and stronger. However, the best full view of the falls is actually across the road
in the parking lot.
The other good view of majestic Multnomah Falls is from Benson Bridge which spans the high cascade
between its two tiers. The 45-foot long footbridge allows visitors to cross 105 feet above the lower
cascade. To access the bridge we had to go through a paved uphill winding pathway that I had to make
frequent stops just to catch my breathe.
The bridge is named for Simon Benson, a prominent Portland businessman who owned the falls in the early
part of the 1900s. In 1914, Benson replaced the existing log bridge with this much wider and safer
bridge which was crafted by Italian stone masons. Before his death, Benson gave Multnomah Falls to
the City of Portland, which later transferred ownership to the USDA Forest Service.
Whether looking upward to the top of the falls, or downward over the lower half of the falls, visitors
can thoroughly enjoy great views of the Columbia River and of the falls themselves. Nena and I were
very thankful to Ronnie and Mila for finding time to bring us to this beautiful waterfall.
Close to the falls is the Multnomah Falls Lodge which was built in 1925 to serve throngs of tourists
who came to view the spectacular sights of the Columbia Gorge. Today, the historic structure houses a
gift shop with plenty of postcards, a restaurant with Northwest Cuisine and unbeatable views of the
falls, and a US Forest Service Information Center where you can find trail maps. During the summer
months vendors offer ice cream, coffee, sodas and other quick snacks from booths and carts in front
of the lodge.
Allow me to share a Native American legend that explains the origins of the falls. I came across this
legend in one of the brochures I got during our visit to the Multnomah Falls. In this legend, a tribe
was infected with a deadly disease and was in danger of dying. The daughter of the chief went to the
top of a cliff and prayed to the Great Spirit to find how she could stop the epidemic. She was told
that to stop the epidemic, she would have to throw herself off the cliff and sacrifice herself. She
did this and died.
The next day, the chief found his daughter's body at the bottom of the cliff. He wept bitterly and
cried out to the Great Spirit to give him a sign if this sacrifice was not in vain. At that moment,
water began to fall from the top of the cliff, forming Multnomah Falls. The legend also says that
under the right conditions, you can see the daughter's face in the waterfall. I guess the conditions
were not right during our visit to the falls since I didn't get to see the face of the young maiden
who sacrificed her life.
With my camera, I took a number of photographs and these can be viewed by clicking on the link shown
Enjoy the spectacular view of the Multnomah Falls.