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.
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...
...like 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.