A gem of Oregon nature, remote White River Falls is located 35 miles away from The Dalles. Originated near White River Glaciers of Mount Hood, the White River flows a distance of 50 miles and joins to the lower Deschutes River approximately 2 miles after the waterfall. The water of the White River is loaded with white glacial silt that gives it milky-white appearance. A the end of August 2019, the river contained enormous loads of brownish-yellow sandy and silt sedimentary particles.
White River Falls is created by the river’s water falling from the 90 feet height on a volcanic basalt shelf. Sometimes referred to as Oregon’s mini-Niagara, the waterfall is the most eruptive during spring while being the most calm in summer due to the lowering of water level.
The short but steep 0.3-mile trail with 140 feet elevation gain is rated as moderate. The path will bring you to the beach and abandoned power plant. It is best suited for visitors starting in April until October while the park itself is open from the middle of March till the end of October.
One of the first hydroelectric power plants in Oregon was constructed in 1901 at the base of the waterfall within a quarter-mile hike from the parking area. The power plant provided power to Sherman and Wasco Counties. The power plant was put out of serves in 1963 after construction modern hydroelectric plants along the Columbia River. Now the ghostly remnants of the power plant make the past present for us. The generators of the historic powerhouse are still inside of the building, but no access is allowed inside it due to the safety considerations.
About quarter-mile down the stream there is a second, smaller waterfall called Celestial Falls. It drops down into the pool from the 44-foot height.
The state park provides visitors with several recreational opportunities including hiking, fishing, picnicking or simply sightseeing. White River Falls State Park offers great views on the waterfalls and surrounding area.
Caution. Kayaking is not allowed at the park. Swimming is not recommended due to dangerous river currents.
According to OPRD, White River Falls State Park has the highest rate of fatalities, all drowning related. It was calculated 1.02 deaths per 100,000 visitors from 2002 to 2012, 3.5 times higher then the next most dangerous park - the Cape Lookout on the Coast with the rate of 0.29 per 100,000.
White River Falls | General Description
Open: March 15 - October 31 from 7 am to 9 pm
Managed: Oregon State Parks
Location: White River Falls State Park
Services: Flush restroom at the trailhead, no water
Activities: Hiking, fishing, nature viewing, and photography
Accommodations: No camping
Distance from the trailhead: 0.3 miles
Hike Difficulty Level: Moderate
Elevation gain: 140 ft (73 m)
Road access: Any passenger vehicle
Day-use fees: Free
Dogs: Must be on a leash
Elevation (waterfall): 940-1,080 ft (287-329 m)
White River Falls is located:
- 34 miles south of The Dalles
- 104 miles north of Bend
- 104 miles southeast of Portland
- 137 miles east of Salem.
In The Dalles,
- Take US-197 and drive south for about 28 miles to OR-216
- Turn right onto OR-216 and go 4 miles to the White River Falls State Park.