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Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls, Oregon
Multnomah Falls / Chris Miller, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

There are numerous waterfalls in Oregon but one stands out – the gorgeous Multnomah Falls.

4.6 out of 10 stars 46.4%

GPS coordinates
45.5760 N 122.1154 W
Location, address
North America, United States, Oregon, Multnomah County, in Columbia River Gorge, at the Historic Columbia River Highway between Corbett and Dodson
Total height
194 m
Drops
3
Highest drop
165 m
Width
˜ 3 m
Average annual flow
˜ 4 m3/s
Stream
Multnomah Creek

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

View from the top of Multnomah Falls, Oregon
View from the top of Multnomah Falls / Rhododendrites, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

This waterfall is very tall – the tallest cascade falls uninterrupted for 165 m but several more factors make this waterfall special: such as the scenic pedestrian bridge between two drops of the falls and the easy accessibility from the highway.

Columbia River Gorge

The Cascade Range is crossed only by three larger rivers and the largest is the mighty Columbia River. As the mountains gradually rose over the last 17 – 12 million years, the river cut a spectacular gorge through the mountains. This gorge is some 130 km long and up to 1,200 m deep.

Thanks to a high amount of precipitation here have formed numerous smaller and larger streams, which are running towards the Columbia River. When these streams reach the gorge, often spectacular waterfalls are formed. There are more than 90 perennial waterfalls known on the southern, Oregon side of the gorge.

In 1913 – 1922 along the Oregon side was built scenic highway – the first such planned tourist route in United States. Some decades later next to it was built Interstate 84.

Multnomah Falls in winter, Oregon
Multnomah Falls in winter / Yolanda Arkilander, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The waterfall

Waterfall has been known to local people since prehistoric times. People of European descent most likely learned about these falls around 1805, when the Lewis and Clark Expedition reached this area. The name “Multnomah” originates from the Chinook word which denotes the lower reaches of a river, here – Columbia River. First, this word was used to name the Multnomah County and then, around 1860 – also to name the most prominent local waterfall.

Multnomah Falls are falling over basalt rock which was exposed by one of the gargantuan lake outbursts (Mussoula Floods) which took place here during the Ice Age. Waterfalls are fed by spring in the nearby Larch Mountain. This spring is an abundant source of water throughout the year. Often the stream is supplemented by rainwater and melting snow.

Multnomah Falls in Oregon before the construction of the bridge
Multnomah Falls before the construction of the bridge / Gerald W. Williams Collection, Wikimedia Commons, no known copyrights restriction

Waterfall has three main drops. The upper one (some 3 m tall) is nicknamed – Little Multnomah and often has not been included in the full height of the falls. Soon after this drop comes the tallest (165 m) drop. As it hits the ground, follows a short run, and then the Multnomah Creek makes the final, nearly vertical 21 m tall drop which ends in a plunge pool.

In 1914 between the two tallest drops of the waterfall was built 14 meters long footbridge. It was financed by lumber businessman Simon Benson and is called Benson Footbridge. This gracious structure has become an integral part of the breathtaking view of the waterfall, the bridge accentuates the giant size of falls.

Benson and other influential local people rightly considered that the beautiful landscape of Columbia River Gorge has good tourism potential. It seems that Multnomah Falls in a way was a key point in their activities – here started the planning of the first scenic road in the United States, here was built also modern (for its time) hotel – Multnomah Falls Lodge. Around the falls was developed a network of footpaths.

Nowadays Multnomah Falls and their surroundings are justly popular hiking area and one of the symbols of the natural beauty of Pacific North-West.

References

  1. Multnomah Falls. World Waterfall Database. Accessed on April 8, 2017.

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