Monday, October 24, 2016

Oregon's Starvation Creek State Park: New Trail to Three Waterfalls

When the Columbia River Gorge gets crowded, you just open up some new waterfalls to public access, right? Well, after a visit to three falls, all easily walkable from the Starvation Creek State Park lot, I thought that Oregon State Parks had done just that.

The fall leaves brightened the grey day in the Gorge.
October is a great time to see waterfalls.
Historic Columbia River Highway Trail
This past year, the Historic Columbia River Highway celebrated its centennial. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been charged with working with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), the State Historic Preservation Office and Travel Oregon to preserve, enhance and reconnect the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Much of this work has been accomplished. 63 of the original 73 miles of the Historic Columbia River Highway are now open to travel either by motor vehicle (Historic Highway or connecting county roads) or by foot and bicycle (State Trail). Only 10 miles are needed to complete the connection. We found we were to be walking on one of the new sections of the trail.

A new section of the trail.
Starvation Creek State Park
We had heard that it was just an easy walk on the Columbia River Highway State Trail to Hole in the Wall Falls now. Once you had to take a hike through the woods to see this pretty waterfall. Now the falls are accessed from Starvation Creek State Park, just off of Interstate 84, about halfway between Cascade Locks and Hood River.
Even from the parking lot, the fall leaves were stunning
The parking lot is not huge, so go early or go during the week. There is a new restroom and, to the east, the short paved route to Starvation Creek Falls. But first, we decided to head out to Hole in the Wall Falls along Mount Defiance Trail/Columbia River Highway State Trail.

The Falls
From the parking lot, follow the wide paved trail paralleling the freeway about a mile west. You’ll first come to Cabin Creek falls surrounded by stunning basalt cliffs and mossy woods. You can’t really see the bottom of the falls due to the huge boulders blocking the view. We found the moss on the boulders to be worth a photo.
Cabin Creek Falls
Next, viewable from a newly constructed picnic area, you’ll see beautiful Hole in the Wall Falls. Interesting name, right?  There is a story here. The original Columbia River Highway was constructed paralleling close to Warren Creek's major waterfall, Warren Falls. During high water, the creek would often wash out the road, so, rather than repairing or just moving the road, in 1938 someone decided to move the waterfall. A tunnel was blasted through the adjacent cliff, through which the creek was diverted, and Hole-in-the-Wall Falls was born. Continuing west, you’ll reach the end of the newly constructed trail and note that further construction for foot and bike traffic is in process.
Hole in the Wall Falls
Francesca the Coonhound wishing she could go wading
at Hole in the Wall Falls

Yes, you’ll hear freeway sounds for part of the walk, but the beauty of the woods, Warren Creek, and the falls is worth it.
Warren Creek
We retraced our steps enjoying the fall foliage and reached the trailhead once again. This time we took the paved trail east, up the hill to beautiful Starvation Creek and the falls. There’s a story or two here too. The origin of the name is not clear. Some say a group of pioneers reached the place and ran out of provisions. Others say that a train was stuck in the snow in this area and travelers had to wait for food to arrive. Still others say that the travelers had to help dig out the train to get it going along the track. No matter which story you believe, the place is worth a visit now. The beautiful cascading creek and falls is easily accessible year round.
Did someone place this leaf here for us to photograph?

Starvation Creek

We visited in October and the creek was running strong. It was tempting to stop for a meal at the picnic table. But, alas, the table had been taken by a group of photographers.
Starvation Creek Falls (Photo: Oregon State Parks)
There was lots to see at Starvation Creek
We enjoyed the falls, the surrounding trees and walked the short distance back to the car.

When You Go
Starvation Creek State Park is at exit 55 off I-84. When you approach exit 55 (from the west), don’t be whizzing along too fast.  You might miss your exit and have to drive further and turn around. The parking area is only accessible to eastbound traffic (if you are driving west, exit and turn around at Exit 51 (Wyeth), then to return to your westbound direction, do the same at Viento State Park at Exit 56).

There is no charge to park or bike and walk the trail from this point. Dogs must be on leash.

Allow about 1 to 1.5 hours to walk, photograph and enjoy the three falls.

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