About White River Falls (Tygh Valley Falls)
White River Falls (also known as Tygh Valley Falls) was a gorgeous and powerful multi-tiered waterfall within the rainshadowed Tygh Valley east of Mt Hood.
Contrasting the Columbia River Gorge, we noticed that this waterfall sat within a climate zone that was noticeably drier given the presence of more brown grass and less moss in these parts.
However, the sediment-rich White River originated from the White River Glacier on Mt Hood, which enabled the river to make its 50+ mile journey to this spot and beyond to join the Deschutes River, despite the diminished precipitation in this region.
That contrast alone made the trip out here stand out since to this point on our first visit back in late March 2009, we had primarily been exposed to the dominance of waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge and Silver Falls State Park (as well as wet weather).
I first learned of this waterfall many years ago from a Webshots photo showing a whitewater raft or kayak in a pool situated between the base of one waterfall while at the top of another!
But after having been there, we could see that the Lower Whitewater Falls (beneath the so-called Celestial Falls) was merely a small drop that could easily be run without the long dropoff that the misleading Webshots photo seemed to suggest.
Even trying to recreate that photo was treacherous as it involved peering down from unstable cliffs among the remnants of old diversion pipes that must have supported the defunt power station further downstream.
This power station was in operation until 1963 when more efficient power stations on the Columbia River rendered this one to be obsolete.
While the Webshots that drew me to this place was misleading, having come here and witnessing the spectacle of this rainbow-producing waterfall was every bit worth the detour to witness regardless of the circumstances that got us here in the first place!
Experiencing White River Falls (Tygh Valley Falls)
From the parking and picnic area (see directions below), we only had to walk a few paces before reaching a nearest viewing area.
At this vantage point, we were only able to see the uppermost tier of the waterfall, which plunged in multiple side-by-side segments.
However, from this vantage point, we could see buttes backing this wide upper tier of the White River Falls as well as some additional smaller tiers and diversion infrastructure further upstream.
We could even see the snow-covered Mt Hood in the distance, which further augmented the scenic allure here.
After having our fill of this overlook, we then walked in the downstream direction past some power plant remnants by a bridge, which ultimately got us to a path that descended more steeply.
On the way down, we got to a ridge or outcrop that allowed us to look directly at the middle tiers of the White River Falls in addition to its uppermost tiers.
And it was from this vantage point that we found to be our favorite spot to check out the entirety of the waterfall (see the photo at the top of this page).
Continuing on the descending trail, it went down steps towards the defunct power station that still had some turbines within its weathered structure.
That said, bars had been set up to prevent entry into the structure though the presence of graffiti on the inside suggested that people either figured out a way in over the top or managed to do their deeds before the bars were erected.
At the very end of the official trail, there was some kind of gauge (I’m guessing it’s there to measure the flow of the White River) as well as fencing.
This was the extent of our visit to the White River Falls, and we back up the way we came.
Overall, for each of our visits here, we spent a little over an hour away from the car as we really took our time to enjoy the relative peace and quiet of this place (each time, we came on a cool April morning).
White River Falls (Tygh Valley Falls) resides in the White River Falls State Park near The Dalles in Wasco County, Oregon. It is administered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
We have typically visited White River Falls State Park from the I-84, where the departure point from that interstate was The Dalles (rhymes with “the Pals”).
At The Dalles, we’d then head south on Hwy 197 for a little over 28 miles turning left onto OR 216 (by this point, there should be a sign pointing the way to White River Falls State Park).
After another 4 miles east on the OR 216, we then turned right to go into White River Falls State Park.
Overall, this drive took us on the order of 30 minutes or so.
For geographical context, The Dalles was 23 miles (about 30 minutes drive) east of Hood River, 88 miles (about 90 minutes drive) east of Portland, 130 miles (2.5 hours drive) north of Bend, and 347 miles (5.5 hours drive) northwest of Boise, Idaho.
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