Saturday, January 4, 2014

River Dance - McKenzie River Wild

The McKenzie River Wild
The McKenzie River is like no other river found in Oregon.  Its origin is Great Spring, where years of filtered water quietly emerge and flow into Clear Lake where a sunken forests looms under the surface.  From Clear Lake the McKenzie River begins its journey toward the sea.  The river's first great natural wonder is Sahalie Falls.
Sahalie Falls cascades 140 feet, (according to the book: Waterfall Lover's Guide - by Gregory A. Plumb), and tumbles over an ancient volcanic lip, crashing into a deep blue pool surrounded by moss covered rocks and trees.  The constant drifting spray from the falls douses the surrounding area keeping it very green even in the hotest of summer days.

Sahalie Falls is listed in books and on the internet as being a height anywhere from 60 to 140 feet.  Why the huge difference, I don't know, but I am making an educated guess that the falls is actually at least 100 feet.
Sahalie is by far the most famous of the large waterfalls along the McKenzie, as illustrated in the falls being used in the Disney movie Homeward Bound.  The 1993 Walt Disney movie classic, Homeward Bound, was filmed at several location throughout Oregon.  Sahalie Falls was the location used when the cat tumbles over a waterfall and is presumed dead.
(You'll have to rent the movie to find out what happened to the cat at Sahalie Falls.)
Sahalie Falls was originally known as Upper Falls before the Clear Lake area was developed for recreation purposes.  In Chinook jargon, the old trade language of Northwest Indians, sahalie meant "top," "upper," "high," "sky," and "heaven."
Below the falls, the water continue down an incredible journey flowing into a small volcanic gorge that decends rapidly down the canyon.  Several un-named cascades dominate this volcanic gorge.
Even though the McKenzie River originates in Clear Lake, just a few miles upstream, the river sustains a very significant volume all year long thanks to the large drainage area to the northeast which consists largely of plains of lava flows.
Water doesn’t linger on the surface and seeps underground, forming one of the larger aquifers in Oregon, then it all emerges in springs around Clear Lake. The result is one of the most consistent rivers in the northwest.
On hot summer days, where it can be 90 degrees at the Sahalie Falls parking lot, the river canyon can be 20 to 30 degrees cooler, thanks to the frigid temperature and rapid movement of the water.  The cold water rapidly drops from one pool to the next on a half mile journey from Sahalie Falls to the next cascade...Koosah Falls.
The gorgeous Koosah Falls thunders over a sharp ancient volcanic escarpment and plunges
80 to 120 feet, (according to the book: Waterfall Lover's Guide - by Gregory A. Plumb),  but I want to say the falls drops higher than Sahalie Falls.  I think Koosah Falls is more like 120 feet.  Again, why with today's technology has it not been determined the actual heights of these two falls, just puzzles me?
In modest flows during the summer, the falls appear as one or two segments, but during the peak of snowmelt, the river spreads across the whole ledge, becoming a 100 foot wide wall of ear-splitting foam thundering into the canyon below.
Koosah is a Chinook Jargon word meaning “sky”, a possible homage to the crystal blue color of the river.
At the base of Koosah Falls, "fissure springs" are visible in several location.  These springs illustrate the flow of water underground.  The three springs circled in the photo above, flow all year.
The upper McKenzie River drainage acts much like a sponge soaking up a lot of water, and the ground is porous, also like a sponge.  Water is on the surface at times and water is underground at times.  If you look closely, you can see these exit springs all over the river basin.  The springs below Koosah Falls flow at a constant rate.
Below Koosah Falls, the river continues speeding on it way.  The river again narrows and winds through another steep basalt canyon.
Maiden-hair ferns quietly line the canyon walls while the river "dances" by.
Imagine the crystal clear quiet blue waters of Clear Lake, only on the move in the McKenzie Gorge.
The McKenzie River is one of Oregon's most unique fast moving water systems.  The river definately "dances."  Take the time and enjoy the short pictorial video (below), of some of my favorite shots taken on the McKenzie, and put with the song "Distant Memories" by James Horner.

1 comment:

Eve said...

Another beautiful location. I love the softness to your waterfall and river photos!