Multnomah Falls is a waterfall on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, located east of Troutdale, between Corbett and Dodson, along the Historic Columbia River Highway. The falls drops in two major steps, split into an upper falls of 542 feet (165 m) and a lower falls of 69 feet (21 m), with a gradual 9 foot (3 m) drop in elevation between the two, so the total height of the waterfall is conventionally given as 620 feet (189 m). Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in the State of Oregon. It is credited by a sign at the site of the falls as the second tallest year-round waterfall in the United States.
Getting to the Columbia River Gorge:
Most Direct (30 minutes): From Portland take I-84 eastbound for approximately 30 miles. Follow signs and take exit 31 (an unusual left-side exit ramp) off I-84 to a parking area. Follow the path under the highway to reach the falls viewing area.
Scenic (45 minutes): From Portland take I-84 to exit 28 (Bridal Veil exit) and drive three miles east on the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway. You will pass other falls on your way.
Most Scenic (at least one hour): Take I-84 eastbound to the Troutdale exit. Follow signs for the Scenic Loop drive. Follow the drive along the old Columbia River Highway. On this route you can encounter breathtaking views of the Columbia Gorge, Mount Hood and several other famous waterfalls on your way to the Multnomah Falls parking area.
There are two major limiting factors for photographing this spot. One has to do with its popularity and easy access. There are 2 million visitors who wants to share the view with you. The other problem is that the waterfalls are facing north, tucked into the mountain an surrounded by a dense forest which provides a certain challenge in shooting the scenery at least during the day when the sun illuminates part of the forest and giving a the high dynamic range. This is especially a problem when you want to include the sky in your frame.
There are several possibilities which offer some elegant solutions for these problems. Multnomah Falls is not a typical sunrise or sunset attraction and yet early morning or late afternoon will solve substantially the problem of huge crowds as well as the high dynamic range. If you still prefer the middle of the day you should have in your bag several ND grad filters to minimize the contrast between sky and landscape.
Do not forget to take your tripod with you otherwise you will miss the opportunity to take long exposure images and have the silky water pattern on your shot.
Any lens will work here. This is a question of taste and what you want to achieve. Take all your lenses with you – wide angle, medium and telephoto.
There is no perfect time of the year to be there. Each season will offer something very distinct and special.
From Benson Bridge, hike another mile up a very steep path to reach the top of the falls. Here you will be rewarded, weather permitting, with spectacular views of the Columbia Gorge. The trail may be closed due to hazardous conditions so make sure to check with the rangers before embarking. Steep drop-offs and uneven or slick walking surfaces make this trail challenging.
Follow signs just outside the lodge to hike a half of a mile to nearby Wahkeena Falls. The name Wahkeena means “most beautiful” in the Yakima language. Not as tall, at a little over 240 feet, and not as well-known, Wahkeena Falls still has much to offer in the way of beauty. The steep one-mile trail leading from the base of the falls to the top has some great views and wildflowers displays in summer. Another bonus might be the comparative lack of visitors.
Last update: October 28, 2011