Take the Winter Waterfall Tour

You’ll think you’re on vacation 

Columbia River Reader Photos by Perry Piper

Beaver Falls Much of the creek’s lower course runs through basalt formations, with the 48-foot Beaver Falls occurring where the creek sheets out over a 40-foot wide shelf and curtains into an amphitheater lined with well-formed columnar jointing. Beaver Creek drains a lower elevation area is not a large stream, but the volume of water in the creek can swell impressively during the wet season. 

Beaver Falls Much of the creek’s lower course runs through basalt formations, with the 48-foot Beaver Falls occurring where the creek sheets out over a 40-foot wide shelf and curtains into an amphitheater lined with well-formed columnar jointing. Beaver Creek drains a lower elevation area is not a large stream, but the volume of water in the creek can swell impressively during the wet season. 

When you need a change of scenery this winter, don’t think you need to hop on an airplane to go find it. A well-planned Sunday drive can yield plenty of enjoyment, too. Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking the less-traveled road and knowing where to look. 

“This is the road we always say we’re going to go down but we never do,” noted Seth Hart, of Longview, who joined one of CRR’s recent winter waterfall excursions. “There’s lots to see.” 

Take the leisurely, three-hour loop tour (see map, next page) following Beaver Creek Road, a stone’s throw off Oregon’s Highway 30 and continuing “the back way” into Clatskanie, and on toward Westport. You’ll have time to stop and admire three different waterfalls, ride the ferry across the Columbia and have a tailgate picnic along the way (Suggestion: Potato Leek Soup and a loaf of artisan bread – see recipes, pages 5, 16). 

“You don’t even know this road (Beaver Creek Road) exists,” said Susan Milke, of Scappoose. “You’re going to think you’re in another region of the country. It’s like being on vacation. This introduces an area in your own backyard that you haven’t discovered.”

“We take it for granted,” Kalama resident Ed Phillips said of the scenery, “but it’s beautiful. It awakens my senses and my youth,” he added. Hed’d been skipping rocks at the Westport ferry landing. 

“You don’t even have to go very far, to get out and see the river, get a different perspective of where we live,” said Chris Dahlgren, of Columbia City. “We take where we live for granted and feel we need to tour other places, but we can tour here!” 

“It’s the forest primeval,” said Sue Lane, comparing the Beaver Creek 

area to the Olympic Peninsula, both with huge, mossy trees, lush ferns and forest vegetation. Beyond the creek and waterfalls, the local terrain offers its own charms, too. 

“I love the smells in the country,” Lane said, “whether it’s a wood fire or fresh-mown hay.” 

Longview resident Myra Cardon, who moved here from the Atlanta area six months ago with her husband, Mark Cardon, said, “Waterfalls there (in Georgia) are not nearly as close. It’s one more benefit” of living in the Pacific Northwest. “I didn’t know this was here.” 

Upper Beaver Falls cascade 11 feet down a small exposure of well formed columnar basalt, with a 4-foot sliding cascade located just upstream. The pool below the falls is is a popular swimming hole in the summer. 

Upper Beaver Falls cascade 11 feet down a small exposure of well formed columnar basalt, with a 4-foot sliding cascade located just upstream. The pool below the falls is is a popular swimming hole in the summer. 

Field trip for grown-ups 

“It’s nice to go on a field trip and get to enjoy it and not have to be responsible for my whole classroom,” said Margaret Smith, a teacher at Olympic Elementary School in Longview. “It’s a chance to learn more about the area and see something new.” 

IF YOU GO - Waterfall Loop Driving Directions

Sample itinerary:  11:30am  Head across Rainier Bridge from Longview, continue west on Hwy 30 12 Noon  Visit Beaver Falls (allow 10 mins at each). then continue toward Clatskanie 12:40pm  Pass through Clatskanie 12:55pm Arrive in Westport (Pubic toilet at landing and on ferry; take hand sanitizer)  1:15pm Board Ferry 1:30pm Exit ferry 1:50pm Stella Falls 2:15pm Arrive in Longview. From Lewis & Clark Bridge drive west on Hwy 30 about 4.7 miles. Turn off at Delena. Continue 1.8 miles to a wide pullout offering view of Upper Beaver Creek Falls. Continue 2 miles to the large pullout past the end of the chain-link fence and walk back about .1 mile for a great view.  •Drive 6 miles, following signs to Clatskanie. Drive 10 miles to Westport to catch ferry (departs 15 minutes past each hour) and cross the Columbia River. Drive through Cathlamet and turn right on Washington SR-4, head east toward Longview. About 1/4-mile past Stella, watch for Stella Falls 200 feet north (left side) of the road. Be cautious if you park along the road or if you park at Stella and walk back. 

Sample itinerary:  11:30am  Head across Rainier Bridge from Longview, continue west on Hwy 30 12 Noon  Visit Beaver Falls (allow 10 mins at each). then continue toward Clatskanie 12:40pm  Pass through Clatskanie 12:55pm Arrive in Westport (Pubic toilet at landing and on ferry; take hand sanitizer)  1:15pm Board Ferry 1:30pm Exit ferry 1:50pm Stella Falls 2:15pm Arrive in Longview.

From Lewis & Clark Bridge drive west on Hwy 30 about 4.7 miles. Turn off at Delena. Continue 1.8 miles to a wide pullout offering view of Upper Beaver Creek Falls. Continue 2 miles to the large pullout past the end of the chain-link fence and walk back about .1 mile for a great view. 

•Drive 6 miles, following signs to Clatskanie. Drive 10 miles to Westport to catch ferry (departs 15 minutes past each hour) and cross the Columbia River. Drive through Cathlamet and turn right on Washington SR-4, head east toward Longview. About 1/4-mile past Stella, watch for Stella Falls 200 feet north (left side) of the road. Be cautious if you park along the road or if you park at Stella and walk back. 

About the ferry 

The little ferry “Wahkiakum” has sailed the mighty Columbia between Puget Island, Washington, and Westport, Oregon, at least 18 times per day, 365 days a year since 1962. It is the last regularly scheduled car ferry to cross the Columbia River between the two states. Departing the Puget Island ramp on the hour and beginning the return voyage from Westport at a quarter after the hour, the ferry ride packs a lot of scenery and river life into a 10-minute ride. Cost is $5 for a passenger car. Ferry service was interrupted for two weeks due to a cracked hull and blown engine last fall. The Washington Dept. of Transportation is assisting Wahkiakum County with financing a new $5.6 million ferry being built by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Freeland, Washington. It is scheduled for delivery in February 2015.