White River Falls (Tygh Valley Falls)

Tygh Valley / The Dalles, Oregon, USA

About White River Falls (Tygh Valley Falls)


Hiking Distance: 1/2 mile round trip
Suggested Time: 30 minutes

Date first visited: 2009-03-29
Date last visited: 2021-04-05

Waterfall Latitude: 45.24259
Waterfall Longitude: -121.09707

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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.

White_River_Falls_098_04052021 - White River Falls or Tygh Valley Falls
White River Falls or Tygh Valley Falls

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.

White_River_Falls_010_03292009 - The segmented uppermost drops of the White River Falls or Tygh Valley Falls. Notice the landscape in the background seemed to suggest some heritage of volcanism.
The segmented uppermost drops of the White River Falls or Tygh Valley Falls. Notice the landscape in the background seemed to suggest some heritage of volcanism.

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.

White_River_Falls_001_04052021 - Looking towards the eastern face of Mt Hood from the White River Falls State Park
Looking towards the eastern face of Mt Hood from the White River Falls State Park

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.

White_River_Falls_103_04052021 - Looking down the final descent to the defunct power station at White River Falls State Park
Looking down the final descent to the defunct power station at White River Falls State Park

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.

White_River_Falls_109_04052021 - Context of the White River Falls and what's left of the hydropower station that is no longer in operation
Context of the White River Falls and what’s left of the hydropower station that is no longer in operation

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).

Authorities

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.

White_River_Falls_002_04052021 - Looking back at the short access road leaving the OR 216 and entering the White River Falls State Park
White_River_Falls_006_04052021 - When we first showed up at White River Falls during our early April 2021 visit, we weren't the only people exploring the waterfall, but as soon as these guys left several minutes later, we pretty much had this place to ourselves
White_River_Falls_011_04052021 - Morning rainbow on the upper tier of White River Falls was a good sign that we were about to get even better shots of this waterfall with rainbows further downstream
White_River_Falls_019_04052021 - Tahia trying to stay warm while checking out the interpretive sign by the uppermost of the lookouts at White River Falls State Park
White_River_Falls_020_04052021 - Looking down at one of the remaining diversion pipes near the course of White River Falls
White_River_Falls_032_04052021 - Looking downstream at the deep canyon carved out by the powerful White River. So it's easy to imagine why this place was tapped for its power
White_River_Falls_037_04052021 - Closer look at the power station further downstream from the White River Falls
White_River_Falls_040_04052021 - Descending towards the White River Power Station (though we did briefly take the wrong trail and ended up on this jumble of loose basaltic boulders)
White_River_Falls_042_04052021 - Looking back at the context of the top of the White River Falls and the trail descending to the power station
White_River_Falls_045_04052021 - Julie and Tahia making their way down the trail towards other views of the White River Falls during our early April 2021 visit
White_River_Falls_046_04052021 - Tahia helping me set up the tripod in front of this vista of the White River Falls
White_River_Falls_049_04052021 - Direct view of as much of the White River Falls that we could possible see during our early April 2021 visit
White_River_Falls_067_04052021 - Slightly differently-angled look right at the White River Falls during our early April 2021 visit
White_River_Falls_076_04052021 - Bold rainbow arcing across White River Falls on the morning of our early April 2021 visit
White_River_Falls_091_04052021 - It really seemed like our early April 2021 visit to White River Falls was well-timed as the rainbow just kept getting bolder as the morning progressed
White_River_Falls_106_04052021 - Looking down at the descent towards the defunct White River Power Station
White_River_Falls_107_04052021 - Looking back at the uppermost drop of White River Falls fronted by other remnants of the White River Power Station
White_River_Falls_108_04052021 - The lower part of the trail to the power station involved steps
White_River_Falls_111_04052021 - Looking back at the context of the steps and the White River Power Station
White_River_Falls_114_04052021 - At the end of the official trail was this fencing and possible infrastructure (a stream gauge?)
White_River_Falls_115_04052021 - Looking back at the context of the White River Power Station from the end of the official trail
White_River_Falls_116_04052021 - The White River Power Station
White_River_Falls_118_04052021 - Looking inside the White River Power Station at some turbines
White_River_Falls_119_04052021 - Looking towards the river-facing side of the White River Power Station
White_River_Falls_134_04052021 - One last look at the top of the White River Falls on the way back to the parking lot to end the early April 2021 visit
White_River_Falls_136_04052021 - Looking towards an inviting picnic and lawn area by the parking lot for the White River Falls State Park
White_River_Falls_001_03292009 - The Upper White River Falls as seen in late March 2009, which was only a few paces from the parking area
White_River_Falls_002_03292009 - More contextual look at the Upper White River Falls in late March 2009
White_River_Falls_013_03292009 - A faint rainbow arcing over the White River Falls as I was looking for more ways to view this multi-tiered waterfall during our late March 2009 visit
White_River_Falls_041_03292009 - I tried to change my viewing angle to show more of the uppermost tiers with the middle tiers of White River Falls, but the chute above the middle tier kept me from getting that all-encompassing view
White_River_Falls_046_03292009 - Last view of White River Falls before we headed back to the car and concluded our late March 2009 visit


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).

White_River_Falls_003_04052021 - The parking area for White River Falls State Park
The parking area for 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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Comprehensive sweep checking out the uppermost tier of White River Falls


Comprehensive video showing the front of White River Falls and rainbow from a couple of different lower vantage points


Slow and deliberate L-shaped sweep from left to right of White River Falls with tripod steadying most of the video


Video showing brief context of Mt Hood in the distance then focusing in on the uppermost tier of White River Falls along with some hydro infrastructure


Following the water's flow beginning at a breathtaking view of the falls and ending at the hydro building downstream


Following the water's flow from the waterfall itself to the hydro building downstream

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Tagged with: tygh valley, white river, the dalles, wasco, oregon, waterfall, pacific northwest, mt hood, mount hood



Visitor Comments:

Swimming Hole (White River Falls) October 26, 2009 8:48 pm by Patrick Mertz - My cousins and I lived on State Hwy. 216, just a mile or so east of the park entrance in 1978 and 1979. We frequently went to the falls during the hot summer months for refreshing swims. I also fished the White River downstream from the falls, landing some nice trout. I haven't been back… ...Read More

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