Friday, August 14, 2020

North Umpqua Waterfalls

Edwin came up with this crazy idea of hiking to a bunch of waterfalls on a bunch of short trails. Seemed like an interesting concept so Cleve and I both joined him for this multi-trailed multi-waterfalled sortie which began at touristy Watson Falls. Now, I do see Watson Falls on a regular basis because the parking lot at the base of the falls is a designated pit stop when driving to trails further east into the Cascades. The cascade is readily visible from the parking lot and provides a nice ambience before and after the emptying of bladders and other disgusting body parts. On the other hand, the stench of human offal emanating from the pit toilets do detract somewhat from the beauty of the waterfall. It's better to grab the trail to the falls and get away from that certain essénce du pit stoppe wafting in the breeze. 

Splash landing at Watson Falls

The short trail climbed steadily next to Watson Creek tumbling over, around, and through the rock pile formed by the crumbling of the cliffs above. At 292 feet, Watson Falls is one of the taller cascades in Oregon and while we are partial to all our waterfalls in Douglas County, it is one of the prettier ones. A small crowd of visitors oohed and aahed appropriately at the misty torrents hanging in the air like 292 foot tall literal shower curtains. 

Whitehorse Falls is just a short walk
away from the campground parking lot

Next up was Whitehorse Falls, a place which I'd visited just once in my life and that was when I had young children with me. That leads me to an odd little factoid, too. I have taken my children on plenty of hikes and they all hated it at the time but now remember hiking with such fondness. Despite the incorrect warm fuzzy memories, they still don't hike but my grandchildren can't get enough. Don't ask me why this is so, I have no clue. Anyway, the walk to the cascade was shorter than this paragraph but the cascade falling into its punch bowl shared with several logs was certainly attractive enough.

One small piece of feathery Clearwater Falls

Not on the itinerary but since we were in the area, we also paid a visit to Clearwater Falls. These falls were perhaps the most geologically interesting because the Clearwater River births into existence about a mile above the falls when it emerges fully formed from underground. Because the porous volcanic soil is so amenable to water flowing underneath, the river simultaneously flows above and under the earth. All underground water conduits must submit to the Earth's gravitational pull at the falls however, so the appearance is that of the cliffs leaking water at the white-watered cascade. This is one of my favorite waterfalls and much photography ensued. 

Lemolo Falls in all its thundering glory

Next up was Lemolo Falls and the hike on the east side resembled a real hike, complete with the rough and dusty drive to the trailhead. I've always walked to Lemolo Falls on the North Umpqua Trail on the west side and unfortunately, the venerable trail only offers partial views of the falls unless you want to cling to trees above a precipitous drop, and I d
on't. On the east side of the river though, the Lemolo Falls Trail takes hikers right to the windblown base of the thundering cascade. Watson Falls may be taller but Lemolo Falls carries a lot more volume and makes a lot more noise.

Waterfall-driven mist is a constant at Lemolo Falls

It was hard to adequately photograph the splendor of the falls because the sun shone directly into the camera and also because the perpetual spray constantly clouded up the camera lens. I did my best, scrambling up a damp and mossy slope to shoot a few pictures that hopefully didn't involve any barked shins from scrabbling over slippery rocks. 

Photogenic Warm Spring Falls

One more rough and dusty drive delivered us to the trailhead at Warm Spring Falls. The hike to the falls was not much of a hike at all, ending in about 0.3 miles at a railed wooden platform overlooking the photogenic cascade. This was my first visit to Warm Spring Falls and I must say I was impressed. The falls tumble over a rocky overhang comprised of hexagonal basaltic pillars, splashing into a bowl with a pile of rocks directly underneath the cataract. 

Quality shade time on the North Umpqua River

By this time we had hiked to five waterfalls and managed to get in around six miles of hiking. Seemed like hardly worth all the trouble to drive to all these trailheads so we quickly came up with the idea of hiking on the North Umpqua Trail down to the overlook of Lemolo Falls. 

Just another nameless cascade on the river

The forest surrounding the North Umpqua River was green and lush, and certainly the shade was much appreciated on an increasingly warm afternoon. Bees, butterflies, and beetles cavorted and frolicked upon the late summer flowers and we partook of ripe thimbleberry and dewberry for extra sustenance. As stated, only a partial view of Lemolo Falls was offered but there were other smaller nameless cascades that were impressive in their own right. 

Ripe thimbleberries slowed our progress a bit 

All told, we wound up hiking 9.6 miles, a worthy distance, especially with the many aqueous wonders seen on this hike. Good thing we left it to Edwin to plan this busy outing, it had been a fun day indeed. For more photos of this hike, please visit the Flickr album

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