Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cedar Mill Falls

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A slideshow from Cedar Mill Falls, a small-ish waterfall (roughly 32 feet high) cleverly concealed in Portland's western suburbs, at the intersection of NW 119th Avenue & Cornell. Cornell crosses Cedar Mill Creek just east of that intersection, and the falls are right on the south side of Cornell. These photos were taken from the sidewalk on Cornell, if that gives you any idea. Yet somehow the falls aren't visible when you're driving by on Cornell. I've done that fairly regularly for a long time, and I never knew there was a waterfall here until I stumbled across it in someone's database of northwest waterfalls. Initially I was skeptical, since I've seen the gentle ripples at Marshall Park described as waterfalls too, which is quite an exaggeration. The land's only been under public ownership since 2005 or so, and improvements for public access are only just starting to happen, which is probably why the place has such a low profile.

There's a boardwalk under construction which should eventually give a closer view of the falls. I can't find a current ETA on when it's supposed to be open; it's been delayed for years due to various permit tangles and financial issues and so forth, so they may have just stopped announcing completion dates at this point. It looks nearly done though, so I can't imagine it will be longer than next spring or so.

Just west of the falls is the historic 1869 house of John Quincy Adams Young, who built a cedar mill at this location, thus naming the area, as well as the creek and the waterfall. The house needs restoration and isn't open to the public yet, so there isn't a lot to see. Even in its current state, it's still kind of fascinating to see this one single pioneer-era house sandwiched in among contemporary parking lots and subdivisions and chain stores.

The creek passes under Cornell on what's marked as the "Larry Vincent Memorial Bridge". A 1981 Oregonian article tells the story: Vincent was 15 and a promising middle school cross country runner when he died in a truck accident in Eastern Oregon. His father, a landscape architect, was already involved in pedestrian improvements to the Cedar Mill neighborhood. After his son's death, he designed the footbridge at the falls as a living memorial to his son.

What Cedar Mill Falls lacks in sheer size it makes up for in convenience. The weather in the Columbia Gorge tends to be really awful in the winter, and it's kind of a long drive even when the weather's nice. In contrast, Cedar Mill Falls is right on a main road, in an inner suburban part of town. There's a church parking lot just west of the Young house. I parked there, briefly, while taking these photos. I didn't see any signs threatening to tow people who weren't there on church business, so you may be ok parking there too. Alternately, there are TriMet bus stops right at the intersection with NW 119th, so you could just take bus 47 or 48 to the falls if you prefer. The eastbound stop has Stop ID #1200, and the westbound one is #1201, if that helps at all.

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