Monday, August 25, 2008

Waterfall Fun on our trip

kw: vacations, waterfalls

The hiatus in postings between August 19 and 24 I was out of touch, staying at hotels whose much-touted wideband service didn't work. We were having too much fun to care. My family and I flew to Oregon the 20th to attend a family wedding. The pix below were from a run up the Columbia Gorge on the Waterfall route, the Historic Columbia Gorge Highway. We went with my brother and his family.

Of seven waterfalls along the route, we saw five, from Latourelle to Multnomah, the two prettiest. First we stopped at Crown Point to see the view from the Vista House, a seven-sided structure built by WPA workers during the early FDR administration. From here you can look up and down the lower Gorge.

This image is of the lower half of Latourelle Falls, with a couple to the lower right, for some idea of scale. They were attempting to go behind the falls, which is very possible, but you get drenched. The spray you can see at the base of the falls is driven sideways by a strong air blast entrained by the falling water, so anyone getting closer than a hundred feet or so soon gets a thorough soaking.

Of more interest to me are the "crystals" of columnar basalt that form the cliff. Columnar basalt is a characteristic rock of the Columbia Gorge and all the area. Huge flows of lava filled the area a few million years ago. Where the cooling lava was in contact with water, it cooled in a way that caused it to crack along the sides of hexagonal columns. The further from the lava-water contact surface, the more the columns begin to turn and even twist, as you can see right above the couple (you'll spot them better if you first click on the image to see a larger version).

Examples of columnar basalt with larger columns are the Devil's Postpile National Monument in California and the Giant's Causeway in Ireland. In the Columbia Plateau and Gorge, the scale you see in this image is more the rule.

Multnomah Falls is the tallest. The upper section, at 542 feet, is more than twice the height of Niagara Falls. There is a footpath to the bridge; the two people at the right end of the bridge are my son and his cousin. After taking the picture, I hiked that far myself, then went further about halfway to the top of the falls. Since I don't find waterfalls that interesting from the top, the halfway point was far enough!

Each waterfall we visited got us a little wetter. I am glad we were in a rental car! At least we didn't get muddy. I probably stayed the farthest from the falls, to avoid too many water spots on my camera lenses, but I still got pretty thoroughly sprayed.

Had we had more time, we'd have gone on to the other two waterfalls and seen more of the gorge. As it was, we judged the time just right, arriving back in Portland in time to dress and arrive a few minutes before the wedding began.

No comments: