Waterfalls and Rainforests of the Pacific Northwest

January 03, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

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     Happy New Year!  Although I didn't do quite as much traveling this past year (in part to COVID), I did make it to the Pacific Northwest a couple of times this past year. I thought I would take one last look back to my journeys to Oregon and Washington in 2020. I visited a couple of new national parks this year (North Cascades and Crater Lake) but also visited a couple of familiar favorites (Olympic and Mount Rainier). 

The western part of Washington and Oregon sees a lot of rain, especially in the colder half of the year.  The terrain and high rainfall means there are numerous waterfalls.  SouthFallsSilverFallsSPWebSouthFallsSilverFallsSPWeb

One of the larger and more photogenic waterfalls in Oregon is located in Silver Falls State Park, near Salem. A 7+ mile hike on the Trail Of Ten Falls is the best way to see this beautiful state park. Above you can see a picture of South Falls, one of those 10 waterfalls. I was here in October, the best month to see fall foliage here.  Although the majority of trees in Oregon are evergreen, there are some maple trees that make for some splashes of color in such a green forest. 

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Pictured above are Tokeete Falls in Oregon (left) and Falls Creek Falls in Washington (right).

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Pictured above are Panther Creek Falls (left) and Christine Falls in Washington (right).

A trip to see Pacific Northwest waterfalls would not be complete without a visit to the Columbia River Gorge. Another large and photogenic waterfall in Oregon is Multnomah Falls.  Because it is literally next to a rest stop on I-84 east of Portland, it is photographed hundreds of times a day.  However, it was a must see for this first time visitor to the Columbia River Gorge. 

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Other waterfalls can be seen with a short hike from the road, such as this waterfall known as Fairy Falls.

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The Pacific Northwest is also home of old growth rain forests. When most people think of rain forests, they tend think of the Amazon or a location that is closer to the Equator. The area along the coast from western Washington up to southern Alaska is known as a temperate rainforest. This temperate rainforest is different than a warmer tropical rainforest. Here, the western slopes of the mountains are the first area to get hit with the moisture-laden wind and rain storms that come in from the Pacific Ocean. As the air rises along the westward slopes of these mountains it cools and yields precipitation, and lots of it.


So how much rain do you need to distinguish a rain forest from just any forest?  The answer is a rain forest sees around or above a 100 inches of rain a year. 

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The result is some of most lush forests in the world. Common trees along the Washington coast include Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock. Many of these trees have clumps of moss hanging on the branches with numerous ferns on the ground. 

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I'm already thinking about another trip back to this part of the country...next time it will be to spend more time on the Oregon Coast. 


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