Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dry Creek Falls excursion

Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek Falls

Today's fun adventure takes us out to the Gorge again, this time to little-known Dry Creek Falls, just outside Cascade Locks.


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I'd never heard of this waterfall until quite recently, when I ran across a mention of it somewhere on the interwebs. I don't recall where exactly, but I was intrigued. As I've said before, I like to think I know the gorge pretty well. But I don't recall ever hearing of Dry Creek Falls. I was delighted, of course. Another really obscure place to track down and do a piece about, something I do a lot here on this humblest of humble blogs. The falls were fresh blog meat, basically.

So here are several pages describing the typical route to the falls, hiking from the Bridge of the Gods trailhead next to the bridge.

So the multiply-aforementioned hike is the usual way to get to the falls, but I'd already done Hamilton Mountain earlier in the day, and I didn't feel like another four miles just then. The trail didn't sound that fabulous, either, starting at a rather dubious parking lot next to the bridge, traipsing through a residential area, crossing under the freeway, walking along a powerline access road for a while, and finally ending up on a regular road, which you walk on the last bit of the way to the falls. When I saw that last bit, a little light went on: It doesn't sound like the journey is the reward this time around, so I'll just cut to the chase and drive to the falls on that road. It's a dirt road, but it's on the map and everything, it'll be just fine, I figured. So that's what I did, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it to everyone out there. The journey is definitely not the reward this way either. Here's a typical stretch of Dry Creek Road:

Dry Creek Falls

Actually that's a better-than-average stretch. Most of the time I was too busy dodging large rocks and trying not to high-center the car or get stuck or break down or anything nasty to take any photos. It's your basic Forest Service type road, so if you've got a pickup or some sort of vehicle with high clearance and preferably 4wd, the road may not be any big deal for you. And feel free to mock my puny midsize sedan if you like, but I'll have you know it's been driven offroad more than most SUVs ever will. The key thing to be aware of is that there's an unmarked fork in the road part of the way up, which you can see on the map above. You want to take the left fork. Trust me on this. The right fork goes rather steeply uphill to a pair of cell phone towers surrounded by razor wire and all sorts of threatening signs, including one saying the area exceeds FCC standards for radio-frequency emissions. There's a nice view actually, and I could see the place being a local makeout spot; I imagine all that cell phone radiation has got to have some sort of contraceptive effect. The effect just might not be temporary, is the only problem. So we've established, I hope, that you want to stick to the left fork. Then you just keep driving until the road ends, a few miles further on. (He says, making it sound oh, so simple.) There's no mistaking it when you've arrived. The road ends at a small parking lot, with a sheer cliff rising behind it. Nearby there's a small, old dam of unknown age and purpose, situated on Dry Creek just downstream of the falls:

Dry Creek Falls

There's even a (possibly unofficial) fire pit, if you're in the mood for a party. Whoever was here obviously enjoys Coors far more than I do. In other words, it could have been just about anyone.

Dry Creek Falls

And just steps from the road, the falls themselves:

Dry Creek Falls

I'm sure the falls would be much more popular if the road was paved, and I'm kind of surprised they haven't paved it. Cascade Locks could sure use any extra tourist dollars that might bring in. The town's a bit of blue-collar "Old Oregon", historically dependent on the river and the timber industry, not so much on the tourist trade. Even today there's nary an upscale boutique in sight, and all the rich Portlanders drive right by on I-84 on their way out to Hood River. That's not entirely a bad thing, mind you. In recent years downtown Hood River's become sort of like a miniature Pearl District tilted at a 45 degree angle. I'd hate to see the whole state get Pearlified, and it pleases me to no end that the East Wind Drive-In remains the big fast food joint in town. If there are any national chain restaurants in town at all, I haven't noticed them. People in the know usually think of the East Wind as the ice cream place in town, but they also do a great classic bacon burger, and -- most importantly -- they fry up a mean tater tot. And they aren't doing it just to be hipster-retro-ironic, either. Besides, tater tots count as carbo loading, right? So I don't really want to see the place change dramatically, but the town's traditional industries have had a rough last few years, well, last few decades really, and the town could use a little extra revenue coming in. Cascade Locks has been trying to bring in an Indian casino for the last few years, so clearly they aren't entirely opposed to having a few extra tourists in town.

Dry Creek Falls

I'm no economic development guru, and I'm not sure how many more people you'd reel in from I-84 with a civilized road to the falls and a few signs indicating how to get there. And generally speaking I don't advocate putting in paved roads to every possible point of interest. But, you know, they've got a possible tourist attraction right there on their doorstep, and they could use the cash, so it just seems like a shame. I suppose that as a working class sort of town, people tend to drive pickups, not front wheel drive import sedans, and maybe it just hasn't occurred to anyone that the road's a bit on the iffy side. To be honest, my bottom line here is that I didn't enjoy the drive too much, and I'm trying to make a solid case that somebody ought to do something about it, dammit. Well, that, or I suppose I could just park at the Bridge of the Gods trailhead next time, and hoof it to the falls like everyone else does.

Dry Creek Falls

In any case, here are a few more photos of the falls, and the rather antique water works just downstream. I'm guessing they were built no later than the 1940s, probably earlier than that. Since I'm just a software geek and not a real engineer, I'm not sure what the mini-dam is for. It looks like it diverts water out of the creek into a pipe, but whether the water goes to hydropower, drinking water, irrigation, flood control, or the remains of an old log flume, I really couldn't say. Everyone says it hasn't been used in years, in any event.

Dry Creek Falls

Using my powers of Google-fu, I did manage to track down a corporate history page mentioning the former ARMCO Metal Products Division -- which now exists under a different name, with a different parent company. The ARMCO firm still exists too, under the new name AK Steel. But it looks like the first link is the company you'd want to talk to in the unlikely event you needed spare parts for this contraption.

Dry Creek Falls

Other photos of the falls from around the interwebs, many of them a distinct improvement over mine: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek Falls

Dry Creek Falls

2 comments :

Rachel said...

Great article! I'm hoping to drive up there soon...

peter kenneth said...

Great piece of writing. I loved the contents. Steel Building