Oh, how I love these secret Oregon hideaways. Contrary to what the name suggests, White River Falls State Park is not a big park frequently explored by travelers. It’s tucked away in the Tygh Valley along Highway 216, remaining a local adventure spot and avoiding summertime waterfall tourism.
The park offers the usual delights - picnicking, hiking and fishing. It’s open from spring through the fall, which is the best time to be in that part of the Deschutes River corridor. But aside from the usual park attractions, this spot also offers great, gentle hikes and views of the beautiful White River Falls.
To wander closer to the falls, take the signed trail from the park on a slightly rugged quarter-mile trail through a canyon. The trail goes steeply downhill and turns into wooden steps which lead down to the river. From here you can take in the full power of the falls as the White River pours 75 feet down from a broad horseshoe-shaped basalt ledges. During peak runoff season, the falls can stretch to as much as 250 feet in width.
Right there at the base of the falls are the remains of a hydroelectric power plant. Built in the early 1900s, the power plant used to supply electricity to Wasco and Sherman Counties from 1910 until the completion of The Dalles Dam in 1960. It’s a curious old building, and serves as a counterbalance – temporary human ingenuity existing parallel to eternally raw geologic power.
The park sees more visitors during the weekend as campers roll in, but it’s rarely crowded. There are no parking or trail fees.
Open for day use from Mar 15 - Oct 31.