Monday, January 9, 2017

Barrier Falls

Deep in the woodland hills of the Northern Oregon Coast range can be found many hidden valleys with tumbling streams - the quiet of this forest realm broken only by the roar of many falls and the song of forest wrens. However, the unfortunate truth is that much of this country lacks protected status, let alone trails. One of the few exceptions to this rule is the verdant canyon of Gnat Creek, along which several miles worth of trails may be traveled - the star attraction of which is the small, yet impressive cascade of Barrier Falls. In season it is a cauldron of boiling white froth that dwindles to a trickle of crystal in the dry months of summer.

The trail takes off from a fish hatchery and quickly dives into a dim commercial forest that contrasts amazingly with the lush, life filled forest of Gnat Creek’s shallow gorge. Past a viewpoint above the falls, the trail dips down to a maze of little nature trails that wind about over small rivulets and through leafy corridors of riparian vegetation. The falls are remarkably interesting for such a short drop on such a small creek. Dozens of small springs gush from the canyon wall nearby and coat the rocks in a treacherous layer of ice during freezing weather. Continue your journey downstream or upstream through more picturesque streamside forest, as well as the occasional depressing clearcut, which, in a region so bereft of formal wilderness walking trails,  are endurable blemishes.

Upstream of the upper trail’s end lie several far more fantastic falls that I would love to visit, but unfortunately they are on private land, sadly excluded from the rest of Clatsop State Forest (though I’ve heard it's possible to obtain permission to visit from the owners of the property). I propose that the state of Oregon, or a land trust, purchase the unprotected portion of this beautiful valley, and turn Gnat Creek into a state park.You can read my more detailed proposal here:

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