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Sahalie and Koosah Falls

What an awesome couple of falls. These two falls have the full force of the McKenzie river pouring over them. Now granted, the river isn't as massive here as it is in the Eugene area, it is still a fairly large river... going over two 100 foot waterfalls. Incredible.

1999 had a very long winter in this area. As a result, many trails opened very late in the year. I called the McKenzie River Ranger's station before going out to these falls and was told, "There may be some snow on the trail near the top, but it shouldn't be too bad." You couldn't even drive to the Koosah Falls trail head because it was under a foot of snow, and this was mid May! "Some" snow huh... there was no snow around the falls themselves, but that's because they are in exposed areas. There was at least 3 feet of snow over most of the trail, and up to 5 feet in some areas. This made for very slow going. We went on a Thursday afternoon and were the only people on the trail.

We started at Sahalie Falls, where there's a large parking area and a short paved trail down to a viewpoint of the falls. You can also walk a short paved trail up to the top of the falls and overlook it. Once we did that, we turned around and came back south on the trail, towards Koosah Falls.

Along the whole trail there are lots of places where you can bushwhack your way through and get right down to the river for an awesome view of this roaring river. We did this several times and I got some great pictures of it, but I can't show them all!

The forest in this area is fairly typical of mid elevation old growth. It was very nice in parts, but certainly not the main attraction on this hike.

When we arrived at Koosah falls we saw it too was a very touristy place. There was a railing all along the trail, and portions of it were paved heading out to the parking lot. The photo at the left was taken by climbing over the tourist barrier and looking over the falls.

Continuing on down the trail there is another paved path down to a bench where you can view the falls. The view from this spot actually isn't that great, and I don't think I took any pictures of the falls from there. I did take some from that point towards the other direction though, down river. For me that was the view at this spot; there are better views of Koosah falls... just a little bit farther down the trail. There is a very small trail off to the right down to the view where the picture at the right was taken. The trail is very very steep though, so if you choose to go down there be really careful. It is pretty neat down there though, so I think it's worth it.

After you pass Koosah Falls the trail doesn't follow the McKenzie as closely any more, and you can appreciate the forest a bit. Once you hit the paved road at Carmen Reservoir, it's time to turn right and walk down the paved road a bit until you get to the trail head on the west side of the river. The trail is not RIGHT after you cross over the river though. There does appear to be a trail here, but I'm not sure where it leads, except to a dead end. The real trail is a little bit farther down the road, and there is actually a sign for it.

Right before the actual trail head there is the interesting sign pictured here at the left. It shows a detailed map of the entire area, including major landmarks and ideas for other hikes in the area. It talks about how and when the highway was built right next to the falls, and includes a brief biography of all of the first settlers to the area. It's really informative! Uhh..

The snow on the west side of the trail was much worse than on the east. On the east side we certainly were hiking on snow, but it wasn't much of a problem. On the east side it was pretty bad. We would be hiking along on snow, and then all of a sudden fall in up to our knees or waists. Due to this we were moving extremely slow. A few minutes after we started on this side of the trail it started to rain... then hail... then snow... in the middle of May!

The snow was so bad that we would loose the trail for 5-10 minutes at a time before finally finding it again. When we were just south of Sahalie Falls we had lost the trail for about 20 minutes, it was raining, cold, and miserable, plus my hiking partner had to be back in town by 7:30 for a meeting... so we decided we had better turn back. That was a bummer, because from the east side of Sahalie Falls it looked like I could have gotten some spectacular pictures from the west side trail. Oh well. I'll certainly be heading back here again next year. This is a very short hike; doing the whole loop (as shown on the map) is only 2.9 miles, so anyone can do it. Just because it is so short doesn't mean it isn't rewarding though. This hike has lots of fantastic views packed into a small package. Especially since it is so easy, you should definitely check it out. A waterfall lover will really enjoy it.

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David Paris
Last modified: Tue Jul 27 20:27:48 PDT 1999