About Wahclella Falls (Tanner Creek Falls)
Wahclella Falls (also known as Tanner Creek Falls) was one of the relatively lesser known waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. Said to be about 125ft in cumulative height, photos did’t quite do this waterfall justice as it seemed to be much bigger and powerful than the photos seemed to suggest.
Its upper tier of this two-tiered waterfall only revealed itself from the narrow slot it resided in only if I gazed upon it from the correct angle (see photo at the top of this page). We can only imagine the turbulence in that narrow slot because all that water blasted through the chute as the lower tier as it plunged into a very misty and turbulent plunge pool. Indeed, this was a waterfall to be experienced, which was something the photos we took couldn’t convey.
To get to it, we had to do a roughly 2-mile round trip hike that took us a little over an hour, which included photo stops as well as the hiking itself. The hike was quite muddy in several spots thanks to several days of heavy rains. The trailhead sat outside what I’m calling “waterfalls row” (a stretch of the Old Columbia Gorge Hwy in which there were heaps of waterfalls along the road and further inland; see directions below).
Along the way were a few smaller or thinner waterfalls (each attractive in their own way) on a cliffhugging trail reminiscent of the Eagle Creek trail. One of the falls (known as Munra Falls according to one of our books) actually tumbled right besides a footbridge on the trail before joining up with Tanner Creek.
Over the half-way point of the hike, the trail had split into a loop where an upper trail hugged the cliff on its way towards the falls while offering pretty views of the opening in the gorge below. The lower trail (which we thought was the more scenic of the two) allowed us to walk closer to creek level as well as through an interesting alcove as we got near the bridge before the falls itself.
Given the amount of moisture resulting from the bad weather earlier in the week, we saw quite a few other waterfalls along this trail. We weren’t sure if they were legitimate ones or merely ephemeral ones that became significant because of the saturation of water. Either way, this was a pleasant hike and certainly much quieter than other waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge given its relatively obscure location.
To reach the trailhead, look for the Bonneville Dam exit off the I-84, which is exit 40 as you head east on the I-84 freeway. This exit was 38 miles (about 45 minutes drive) east of Portland. Once at the exit, we headed south and followed the signs pointing us past some fair-sized parking area to another parking lot, which was the trailhead for Wahclella Falls.
Coming from the other direction, we would take the Bonneville State Park exit (just 4 miles west of Cascade Locks along the I-84) before turning left and following the directions as above to the trailhead parking.
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