Spend the day hiking and exploring Silver Falls State Park. People call it the "crown jewel" of the Oregon State Parks system, and once you visit, you know why. Silver Falls State Park is the kind of standout scenic treasure that puts Oregon firmly onto the national\xe2\x80\x94and international\xe2\x80\x94stage. Its beauty, boundless recreational opportunities and historic presence keep it there. Nestled in the foothills of Oregon's Cascade Mountains, less than an hour east of the state capital of Salem, the sprawling 9,200 acre property is the largest state park in Oregon, and one of the most popular.
The first stop of the day will be at Willamette Falls. This is a horseshoe-shaped block waterfall caused by a basalt shelf in the river bottom. The 42-foot-high and 1,500-foot-wide falls occurs 26 river miles upstream from the Willamette's confluence with the Columbia River. It's the largest waterfall by water volume in the Northwest and the 18th largest by volume. Around the falls are the locks, which are the oldest continuously operating multi-lift lock and canal system in the United States.
Next we will make our way to Silver Falls State Park. This area was settled originally by the Kalapuyan Indians. They most likely used the area for hunting, as well as for spirit quests. A small town was established in the Silver Falls area, although it was abandoned by the time the park was created in 1933.
While you are here you will be able to hike part of the Trail of Ten Falls (approximately 3 miles, further if you are able) and some of the waterfalls you may see are:
South Falls- This is the highlight of Silver Falls State Park, and due to its proximity to the city of Salem, is likely one of the most popular waterfalls in Oregon outside of the Columbia River Gorge. The falls are produced where South Silver Creek plunges 177 feet over a huge overhanging basalt cliff with a large pool occupying the bottom of the amphitheater.
North Falls- The massive recess behind North Falls is especially unique and a favorite feature of visitors to the park. The undercut cliff extends back from the falls for at least 100 feet, and the ceiling runs anywhere from 20 to perhaps as much as 75 feet above the trail as it passes behind the falls. The huge size of the under cut chamber allows the roar of the falls to be amplified considerably, making the falls sound quite powerful.
Twin Falls- During the wet season North Silver Creek splits into two channels and spills down an angled basalt ledge, creating two veiling curtains.
Middle North Falls- This is a markedly amorphous waterfall which changes physical shape in a very dramatic way as the volume of water in North Silver Creek changes. The 106 foot tall falls take the form of a narrow column of water during the summer months, funneled to perhaps 5 feet wide at most by a narrow runnel in the bedrock.
Double Falls- Double Falls is the tallest waterfall in Silver Falls State Park – by a hair – and also the best of the handful of tributary waterfalls found along the Trail of Ten Falls.
Drake Falls- Rumbles over a broad sloping ledge of basalt set in the middle of a fairly deep, narrow constriction in the canyon of North Silver Creek.
Lower North Falls- North Silver Creek produces the falls as it rumbles down a 30-foot tall dome-shaped protrusion of basalt and forms a large pool at its base. The domed shape of the falls inspired the nickname "The Thunderdome" among the whitewater kayaking community.