Hiking off-trail brings challenges and unexpected rewards. While working on our Columbia County Reptiles and Amphibians research project Jon and I routinely jump off the logging roads in order to access more remote habitat. Last month we were in search of some of our rarer amphibians and identified a steep stream near the Clatskanie River. The stream looked good via Google Earth but little did we know how cool it would be.
We wove our way through logging roads and elk trails periodically flipping rocks and logs looking for amphibians.
An interesting looking slime mold helped mark our bushwhacking venture.
After four miles of hiking we reached the spot to drop down into the stream draw. A closed-in tree canopy left the understory nearly devoid of vegetation as we crept our way down 300′ of steep slope. We reached the stream and barely had room to maneuver without getting wet.
Two dippers flew past as a rotting fish smell enveloped our trek up the creek. Apparently this is a salmon-bearing stream!
Making our way downstream, we were able to locate the tributary that we had chosen to target for salamander surveys. The small stream was an array of rapids and basalt slides with lots of fallen logs. A couple of the typical stream species were revealed under the rocks.
After heading further upstream on the tributary we began rapidly gaining in elevation and a crescendo of cascading water rose above the churning stream. Before long we hit a minor lower falls, and once we surmounted that a glint of a real waterfall peaked through the dense brush.
A few more logs were jumped and then in front of us was an amazing secret waterfall!
As always, Jonathan and I had to herp the splash zone. (“Herping” is the process of searching for reptiles and amphibians.) Certain species of amphibians are most often found in the extraordinarily wet areas in the direct vicinity of a waterfall. Unfortunately this day’s search was fruitless, though it did guarantee we got thoroughly soaked for the hike back.
After spending more time enjoying the unexpected waterfall and exploring downstream we climbed the steep slopes out of the ravine. Darkness greeted us as we made it back to the car capping off another successful waterfall adventure.
More waterfalls can be seen at our new Waterfalls of Columbia County page