Archive for the ‘Oneonta Gorge’ Tag

Narrow   21 comments

A rare selfie in one of the narrow canyons of Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.

Time for a themed post: Narrow.  It’s this week’s WPC travel theme, so check out all the other entries.

ONEONTA GORGE

I’ll start out close to home: Oregon’s Oneonta Gorge.  Nowadays it is quite famous, but I recall a time when only locals knew about it.  In the warmer months hordes of people hike up the short narrows, wading through the cool water to escape the heat.  In just a half-mile or less your progress is halted by a tall waterfall, where you can climb up a short way and jump off into the pool below.  So refreshing!

Green Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Green Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

The narrows at Oneonta Gorge, full of water during the heavy rains of early Spring.

The narrows at Oneonta Gorge, full of water during the heavy rains of early Spring.

My pictures of Oneonta, however, were all captured in the worst weather I could manage, normally winter or early spring.  The canyon is at its greenest and the mossy walls drip with tiny waterfalls.  At these times it is dangerous to go further than the log jam.  The water is deep and swift and believe me, you wouldn’t want to be swept under the logs.  They would be pulling your body out later.

These logs testify to the power of Oneonta Creek when it floods during heavy rains.

These logs testify to the power of Oneonta Creek when it floods during heavy rains.

Wading through the icy water of Oneonta Creek during a winter storm.

 

DEATH VALLEY

While most of the canyons in this amazing place are not the ultra-narrow slots common to the Colorado Plateau, the park does boast a plethora of narrow canyons to explore.  One of the most famous is Titus Canyon.  Most times you can drive this canyon.  You leave the park on the east side and then re-enter it by descending Titus, passing a ghost town along the way.  There are other canyons near Titus that represent great hiking destinations.  Just hike north from the parking lot at the mouth of Titus Canyon.

You can drive down one of Death Valley's largest canyons, Titus.

You can drive down one of Death Valley’s largest canyons, Titus.

For a canyon hike in Death Valley, the one I most often recommend is Marble Canyon.  Access it by driving the dirt road from Stovepipe Wells, passable in a 2-wheel drive car (but check at the ranger station).  Walking up-canyon, you soon reach the narrows, where canyon walls reach hundreds of feet into the sky.  On a hot day try pressing your whole body against the grey limestone canyon walls.  Definitely a cooling experience!  By continuing up-canyon you eventually come to the beautiful marble that it’s named for.  Most of the way you are passing through limestone, stacks and stacks of it piled into layers at the bottom of the sea hundreds of millions of years ago.

Marble Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California.

SLOTS of the COLORADO PLATEAU

Spreading across southern Utah, northern Arizona and part of Colorado is an enormous feature called the Colorado Plateau.  It is an uplifted landscape characterised by naked sandstone bedrock.  Known throughout the world for its iconic scenery, the plateau is dissected by countless canyons of all description.

The heart of the Colorado Plateau is incised by the meandering San Juan River, Utah.

The heart of the Colorado Plateau is incised by the meandering San Juan River, Utah.

The Grand Canyon is of course the biggest, but many are so narrow that you have to squeeze yourself through.  These are the famous narrow gorges called slot canyons.  They formed because, during the plateau’s uplift (at the same time as the Rocky Mountains rose), fractures developed much like a rising loaf of bread.  It is along these fractures that the slots have been eroded by a combination of freeze-thaw action and flowing water.

One of the biggest concentrations of slot canyons lies in Zion National Park.  Many of these are accessible to any adventurous hiker – for example the two most popular hikes: the Narrows and the Subway.  But some others require specialized equipment.  Being a popular national park, there are plenty of outfitters who will guide you safely through the technical slots.  If you’ve never done any canyoneering before, let me tell you: it’s a blast!

Zion Canyon from Angel's Rest.  The famous Narrows of the Virgin River are at the head of the canyon in the background.

Zion Canyon from Angel’s Rest. The famous Narrows of the Virgin River are at the head of the canyon in the background.

If you want to hike the Subway, I recommend either getting a permit way ahead of time or doing it off-season.  Permits are required April through October, so November is a perfect time to do it.  It’s not a short hike but anybody in good shape and with some experience should have no problem.

The Subway in Zion National Park, Utah.

The Subway in Zion National Park, Utah.

Yet it’s easy to get a feel for slot canyons without investing a lot of time.  Simply drive up to East Zion (beyond the tunnels), park at a likely spot and set off up one of the canyons, turning around at your whim (or when your way is blocked).  This is a great way to explore the park.

A side-canyon in East Zion, Utah.

To the east of Zion is another wonderland of slots: the Escalante country.  A drive down Hole in the Rock Road near the town of Escalante brings you to numerous hikes into the typically narrow tributary canyons of the Escalante River.  You don’t have to brave that long washboard road, however.  Get a good map and explore the numerous canyons accessible from Highway 12.

There is such a thing as a slot that is too narrow:  southern Utah.

There is such a thing as a slot that is too narrow: southern Utah.

Nearby Bryce Canyon, while not known for slot canyons, nevertheless has an amazing hike you should do if you visit.  It drops below the rim and wanders among the hoodoos (rock pinnacles) that make the park famous.  It’s like a maze of narrow passages, including one named Wall Street (image below).

Aptly-named Wall Street in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Aptly-named Wall Street in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Capitol Reef National Park also has some amazing narrow canyon hikes.  One I can recommend hiking is the strangely-named Muley Twist Canyon.  Drive the Burr Trail Road (an adventure in itself) and near its summit you can hike either up- or down-canyon, exploring Muley Twist to your heart’s content.  A shorter canyon hike at Capitol Reef is Grand Wash, located at the end of the scenic drive (turn off at the Visitor Center).

The Wave is a sculpted stretch of sandstone in southern Utah.

The Wave is a sculpted stretch of sandstone in southern Utah.

Continuing east across the plateau you’ll find more fun canyons to explore in the Moab area, including Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.  You could spend your whole life doing nothing but hiking canyons on the Colorado Plateau and never finish with them.  There are just so many.  It’s a true wonderland.  But be smart when you go canyon hiking.  Take the ten essentials plus a hiking partner (or at least let someone know where you’re going and when to expect your return).

A slot in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

A slot in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Squeezing through a slot canyon.

Squeezing through a slot canyon.

Thanks for looking!

Single-image Sunday: Frozen Portal   11 comments

I titled this shot Frozen Portal because it is the entrance to Oneonta Gorge.  Located in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, it’s a popular place to photograph anytime and very popular to wade in hot summer weather.  It is a follow-up to Friday Foto Talk – Winter is Unforgiving.  Check that out for a few tips on photographing in wintertime.  This picture is copyrighted and not available for free download without my permission, sorry.  Please contact me if you’re interested, or just click on the image.

The infamous log jam that must be negotiated in order to enter the gorge is visible behind the snow-covered rock at left-center.  I’ve never seen this particular view of Oneonta posted in a picture before, so thought I’d give a different perspective on an oft-photographed place.  I had to stand in thigh-deep freezing water to get this shot, but what is temporary discomfort when you can capture rare frozen Columbia River Gorge scenery like this.  My apologies to any of you in the southern hemisphere who are sweating through the dog days of summer.

Oneonta Creek in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge is gripped by winter.

Oneonta Creek in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge is gripped by winter.

Oneonta Gorge   29 comments

Oneonta Gorge is a lush slot canyon in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area.

Oneonta Gorge is a narrow and verdant canyon in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area.

This is a lovely canyon that lies not far east of Portland (Oregon) in the Columbia River Gorge.  Being lush, verdant and wet, it offers the kind of scenery and a feeling that is quintessentially Pacific Northwest.   It is Oneonta Gorge, and to explore it requires a bit of an adventurous spirit.

To get there, drive east of Portland into the Columbia River Gorge along Interstate 84.  Keep going past Multnomah Falls and take the next exit (#35, Ainsworth).  Loop around and head back west, turning left at the stop sign on the Historic Highway toward Multnomah Falls.  In fact, an alternative is to travel the Historic Highway all the way out from Corbett (see previous post) past Multnomah Falls and on to Oneonta.  If you take the freeway, all you need to do is drive a couple miles back west along the Historic Highway.  You’ll first come to Horsetail Falls on the left.  Keep going (or stop and take a photo!) for another quarter mile and you’ll see a small tunnel off to the left.  The road does not go through the tunnel.  Cross over Oneonta Creek on a small bridge and pull off at the wide spot just past the tunnel.

Logs are swept down Oneonta Gorge in Oregon during heavy winter rains.

Logs are swept down Oneonta Gorge during heavy winter rains.

Walk back towards the tunnel and you will see a small set of stairs that drops down to Oneonta Creek.  Depending on the time of year, you will either be able to hike up the creek a short way without getting wet or you will quickly get your feet wet.  In either case, in order to proceed very far up the narrow gorge, you’ll need to scramble over a large log jam (be very careful) and then wade up the creek.  Bring old sneakers and wool socks with either shorts or quick-drying pants.  It’s cool in the canyon so warm clothes are a good idea.

The walls of Oneonta Gorge in Oregon are covered in moss and other plants that are kept wet by the constant water seeping from above.

The walls of Oneonta Gorge in Oregon are covered in moss and other plants that are kept wet by the constant water seeping from above.

You can wade up the gorge only about a half-mile before you come to a waterfall, which will halt your progress.  The walls along the sides of this narrow canyon are covered with moss and ferns.  During the wet season (winter and early Spring) you will likely not get all the way to the falls, and you can even be stopped at the far side of the log jam in high water.  In hot summer months you will be able to wade all the way up.  But since this is a very popular place during the warm season now, definitely go during the week.  Better yet go up when the weather is cooler and you will probably have the place to yourself.

The Oneonta Gorge in Oregon narrows to a point where not much light makes it down to the creek bottom.

The Oneonta Gorge in Oregon narrows to a point where not much light makes it down to the creek bottom.

Over the past week I’ve gone up twice.  The first time the water was much too high to continue past the log jam, but on my second visit I saw that the water had dropped quite a bit.  So I waded upstream in the icy water (brrr!).  The last section to the waterfall passes the narrowest and deepest part of the creek, so that was as far as I got.  If you were to swim, you could get all the way.  But it would be a cold swim!

The narrows of Oneonta Gorge in Oregon were created over uncounted years by the creek's frequent flooding.

The narrows of Oneonta Gorge in Oregon were created over uncounted years by the creek’s frequent flooding.

In Onenta Gorge, Oregon, the approach to its waterfall is guarded by deep water in spring's high water flows.

In Onenta Gorge, Oregon, the approach to its waterfall is guarded by deep water in spring’s high water flows.

Hope you enjoyed the photos of this incredible canyon.  I’m sorry these images are not available for free download.  The versions here are much too small for use anyway.  Just click on any you might be interested in to gain access to the high-resolution versions.  Then click “add image to cart” to go to a tabbed price list.  Your image won’t be added to the cart until you see the prices.  Thanks for your interest and cooperation.  See ya next time!

The Columbia River flows west toward the sea in deep evening as the moon shines above.

On the way back from Oneonta Gorge, wet feet didn’t keep me from stopping along the way and admiring the evening glow on the Columbia River with the moon and Orion’s Belt glittering above.

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