Thursday, May 19, 2011

Munson Creek Falls

Munson Creek Falls

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Today's adventure takes us to Munson Creek Falls, a few miles south of Tillamook where the Coast Range meets dairyland. It's a surprising place to find a 319 foot waterfall, at least if you're accustomed to Columbia Gorge waterfalls.

Munson Creek Falls

The falls are a state park, so there's a fairly large and visible sign for the turn off US 101 (which is a left turn if you're heading south from Tillamook). But the road you'll turn onto doesn't look like a road to somewhere you'd want to go. It's paved, at first, but it's quite narrow and is in very poor condition, with ginormous potholes all over the place. There are houses on either side of the road, and as far as you can tell you're just driving around on some random rural road out in dairy country.

(Technically the place is a "state natural site" rather than a "state park". I'm not sure what that's supposed to indicate, but my gut feeling is that it means they aren't going to spend any state money improving the road anytime soon.)

Munson Creek Falls

Once you're past the last houses the road turns to gravel, and it looks like you've wandered onto a random Forest Service road in timber country. It's not any wider than the paved portion, and there are a few big potholes here and there, including one in the middle of a bridge (!), but for the most part the gravel part of the road is in better condition than the paved portion. It's effectively a one lane road most of the way, so you need to watch for oncoming traffic. I didn't encounter any log trucks, but it definitely looks like a road where log trucks are a serious possibility, so pay attention.

Munson Creek Falls

There are also a couple of intersections to keep an eye out for. The route to the falls is clearly marked (so long as nobody monkeys with the signs), at least. There's no cell service out here to distract you while you're driving (at least if you're a T-Mobile customer like me), so you'd have to work at it a bit to get lost, unless you planned on using Google Maps for directions. If you do manage to get lost somehow, I have no idea where you might end up if you take the wrong turn.

Munson Creek Falls

It's a short drive, at least, and pretty soon you'll end up at the parking lot for the falls. From the lot it's an easy 1/4 mile walk to the falls viewpoint. The trail itself is well maintained, in much better shape than the road, and almost as wide. You still won't be right next to the falls at the viewpoint, and there's a railing with a sign saying it's super dangerous, prohibiting you from taking a step further. In practice you can go a bit further ahead without heroic efforts, but the view of the falls is actually better back at the viewpoint. And if you're carrying a mini-tripod like I was, the "none shall pass" fence at the viewpoint is a good place to set up and start taking longer exposures of the falls (which is what you do to get the classic silky water effect people often do with waterfalls).

Munson Creek Falls

Speaking of photos, the main problem I ran into was that, on a sunny day, the foliage in the foreground was bright, while the falls remained in shadow in the background. I expect this happens a lot in this location, so getting exposure and colors right can present a challenge. A cloudy day might be an asset in this case, which is nice since the coast has no shortage of cloudy days.

Munson Creek Falls

Munson Creek Falls

Munson Creek Falls

1 comment :

Megan said...

We just went to Munson Falls and weren't able to get all the way through to the top due to a couple of large downed trees - we were sad not to be able to reach the viewpoint!