Columbia River Gorge Tour w/Oneonta Gorge Falls
Oneonta is a narrow steep gorge leading back into the hills for about a mile; the sides imbedded with 50 species of ferns, plants and wild flowers. Along its course runs a silvery stream, fed from a beautiful water-fall. The old bridge is part of the original highway which carried motorists over this bridge and through Oneonta tunnel. The bluff is solid basalt rock which was tunneled to permit the roadway to parallel the railroad in continuing the Columbia River Highway without bridging the railroad or climbing the steep grades. The bluff gives the impression of the one-time rivers that washed over the mountains in the geological period. The route was changed and the tunnel filled with debris during the 1940s when it became hazardous for larger cars and trucks. The tunnel was rebuilt & reopened in 2003 for foot and bicycle traffic.
Oneonta Falls (5-6 hour tour option recommended) - For the adventuresome - Oneonta Creek runs through the gorge. There are four major waterfalls on the creek: Upper, Middle, Lower and Triple Falls. Lower Oneonta Falls (type: Horsetail, seen below) can only be seen by walking through water (bring rubber boots or extra pair of socks & shoes**) upstream from the creek's outlet at the Historic Columbia River Highway. To get to a vantage point where the entire lower falls is visible requires wading through water that in some places can be chest-deep but usually no higher than knee-deep, depending on the season and the relative amount of snow-melt. The upper falls are about 1 mile upstream from the middle falls and require scrambling up the creek or climbing down a canyon wall to view. The fourth falls which is "Triple falls" can be seen from a vantage point on the upper trails in the canyon. For the adventurous, a optional hike to the lower falls is an option, by prior approval.
Here the stream has sliced through 200 feet and 25 million years of great basalt flows. Ask your guide about the prehistoric "tombs" inside the gorge. Imagine that the falls were once at about the location of the highway before it receded and formed the gorge, demonstrating that things are still and always changing in the gorge, albeit very slowly. Evidence of the constant erosion and mud slides characteristic of the relative unstable nature of the gorge can be seen throughout this area. The falls is one of the most spectacular in the whole Columbia River Gorge. There’s the narrow passageway into the main part of Oneonta Gorge (If you want to see the falls and you don't mind wading knee high in cool water, bring your rubber boots or an extra pair of sneakers to hike through the stream to the falls about 1000 feet from the highway. Your reward for this refreshing journey will be a gorgeous view of the falls plummeting nearly 100 feet into a crystal clear pool; seen below). Mosses and lichens and ferns, oh my, all kinds of plants and trees (50 species) grow in this gorge.
** If you choose to hike Oneonta Gorge, do so at your own risk. Storms in the late 1990's washed fallen trees downstream, creating a large log jam near the mouth of the gorge. Climbing over the log jam to access the deeper parts of the gorge should only be done at your own risk, with the understanding that nature is precarious at best.
* While we consider this tour to be completely safe; in wilderness areas, possible wilderness dangers are always present. If you plan on hiking on any trails, a Trailhead Release Agreement form is required from each member of your group to hike on any extended hike beyond 2/3 mile. These hikes are not recommended for small children or pets. Trails may or may not be near running water, so you should plan on carrying your own water supply. The cliff sections may be moderately exposed, so anyone subject to vertigo should proceed carefully, and turn back if the first set of cliffs are uncomfortable... If you have any apprehensions about nature hiking and/or nature areas, you should not do these hikes. The chauffeur/tour guide does not accompany your group on any extended hike. If he/she does accompany your group on the hike, it is not for the purposes of guiding or as a leader, and the chauffeur/tour guide is not responsible for the group. Be prepared for inclement weather (rain, snow, cold, etc.).