Silver Falls State Park is by in far one of the most lush and memorable state parks in the Western United States. What a joy it is to photograph. Whether you are into macro photography or wide angle long exposures your day will be filled with wandering and creativity. There is often very low light in many areas as it rains frequently. This is South Falls, where visitors can embrace what a 177-foot curtain of water looks like from behind. There are four waterfalls in this park with paths design for back-of-falls viewing and five more than 100 feet high There was a significant amount of mist so it was difficult to shoot the closer you got to the water.
We walked the Ten Falls trail in sections. This trail is a spectacular, nationally recognized hiking trail that weaves through a dense forested landscape. All waterfalls in the park spill over 15-million-year-old Columbia River basalt. The walking trail passes a series of ten breathtaking waterfalls along a rocky canyon, and descends to a winding creek at the forest floor. This 7.2 mile loop is considered to be a moderate hike. We stopped to photograph what seemed like every 10 feet, so we found the journey to be easy at our leisurely pace. The overall elevation change encountered on the pathed walk is 800 feet. There were certainly areas set aside for ADA (Disabled) visitors to access many of the falls. We noticed railing next to many of the overlooks so... for those photographers out there with a fear of heights or a disability the rails offer welcomed support. I have to admit this was one of the more impressive aspects of the park. The South Falls day-use area has beautiful, spacious green lawns, barbecue stands, and covered picnic shelters that sit next to a bustling creek. Between the millions of leaves dancing together in the wind and the sound of the water crackling over rocks in the creek, we could not have found a more tranquil place to have lunch.
Silver Falls City, platted here in 1888, was an early center for logging and homestead farming. Future US President Herbert Hoover surveyed some of the land here while serving as a young engineer. By 1900, June Drake, a Silverton photographer, began pushing for park status. His early photographs of the falls have become classics. An inspector for the National Park Service rejected the area for national park status in 1926; however, in 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that Silver Falls would be one of his largest Recreational Demonstration Projects. He bought private land and employed young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps to develop park facilities. The result is spectacular in that most areas I stopped to photograph I was surrounded with 360-degree raw lush untouched landscape. Since then the forest has regrown so that most visitors do not even notice that the area was once logged.
The main campground has tent sites, RV spots and cabins. There were facilities and a gift shop that was well stocked with mugs, apparel and books. Open all year, the park is usually snow-free even in mid-winter, but the falls are still quite full and the wildflowers are at their best from late March to May. The ranger told us the park is more of less open during daylight hours.
Bears and cougars live in the more remote park areas, away from more than 35 miles of backcountry trails that call to mountain biker, hiker or horseback riders alike. The trails are shared trails but are very wide in most areas for ease in two way travel. I have heard of a few bear encounters but I do not believe there have been injuries. All fishing at Silver Falls State Park is catch and release only, barbless hook.
The leaves seemed to remain wet at all times, so protecting your gear is important. Drops fell on me throughout the day even when there were long periods without rain or sprinkles. The floor of the forest was blanketed with multiple species of ferns and other flowering plants. I could photograph in this park everyday for a year, and never run out of beauty to point my lens in the direction of!
I used a tripod the majority of time I was shot in this park. I considered hiking with a monopod but was so glad I chose the tripod. Because we encountered low light scenarios throughout the day, I created long exposures with beautiful, silky water movement at almost every stop, including those at creekside. There were frogs, chipmunks, and birds playing along the trail that seemed to welcome being photographed. The smell of rain and damp soil filled with air with a sweet scent that I can remember to this day.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor