Sometimes you get lucky. When we visited Oregon's Silver Falls State Park with friends from northern California, we found an exceptional display of fall foliage color. Our timing could not have been better!
A little background on this, Oregon's largest state park:
The park exists because of the efforts of one man, a photographer named June Drake. "Silver Falls City" was formed in 1888 and was primarily a logging community with a few homesteaders. Eventually, the area was extensively logged. Drake, a resident of nearby Silverton, frequently explored the Silver Falls area as a youth in the late 1800s. During his adult career as a photographer, his photographs of Silver Falls gained national attention. Drake mounted an effort to get Silver Falls designated as a national park but that campaign failed. The National Park Service rejected the area because of its many unattractive stumps.
Drake then started drumming up support to make Silver Falls a state park. It took a lot of land acquisition deals by Oregon State Parks engineer Sam Boardman to establish the park, which was dedicated on July 23, 1933. In 1935 President Roosevelt announced that the Silver Falls area would be turned into a "Recreational Demonstration Area." Workers in the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration were employed to develop the park’s roads, buildings, stone walls and trails. The historic South Falls Lodge, completed in the late 1930s, was used as a restaurant from 1946 until the late 1950s. Much of what was built in the Great Depression is still in use today.
Some other lesser-known facts about this beautiful place:
--Silver Falls City was located where the main picnic grounds and parking lots are today. An orchard from that community still produces apples adjacent to Parking Lot B.
--The man who platted Silver Falls City went on to become the 31st president of the United States, Herbert Hoover.
--One of the loggers based at Silver Falls in 1922-23 later became one of the leading men in Hollywood, Clark Gable.
--With nearly 9,000 acres, Silver Falls Park is one of the largest state parks in the country.
On our October outing, we saw three of the park's ten waterfalls. The other seven are tucked down into the canyon carved by North and South Silver Creeks and require significant huffing and puffing and a long hike. We viewed South Falls and North Falls from overlooks. Then, we parked at the Upper North Falls trailhead and made the easy (all level) walk up to the base of the falls. In addition to the colorful leaves, we enjoyed the sight and sound of the North Fork of Silver Creek--which provides the water for many of the park's waterfalls. And, as we retraced our steps to the trailhead, we started sighting mushrooms--of all colors, shapes and sizes.
Later, we lunched in Mt. Angel, a small Willamette Valley town with a German heritage--now famous for its annual "Oktoberfest." The community sits at the base of Mount Angel, a 485-foot high butte. After lunch and the "show" at the "Glockenspiel" restaurant, we drove to the top of the butte, where the Benedictine Abbey, with its lovely grounds and buildings, was established in 1882. From the Abbey grounds, the views of the valley below are breathtaking.
We feel blessed to have such lovely places less than 25 miles away; almost on our doorstep.
October 20, 2009
Unless otherwise noted, text and photos are the property of Barbara Halliday, Kathi F. and Kathy J. © 2009