With a sheer plunge of 89 feet, Tumalo Falls is both the tallest and most impressive waterfall along Tumalo Creek - as well as one of the most popular outdoor destinations in the vicinity of Bend. The area around the falls was burnt in a 1979 forest fire, though like the landscape surrounding Mount St. Helens after it's devastating 1980 eruption, the forest is quickly healing. A few snags still line the hillsides along the valley but the area is green again, covered with small fir trees and not at all detracting from the splendor of the falls. A nice set of viewpoints both at the top and near the base of the falls make viewing the falls possible for nearly everyone. Those looking for a nice weekend outing will find this a great spot in the Bend area.
On a side note regarding Tumalo Falls' height, we measured the falls in July 2010 to drop 89 feet, however virtually all other prior sources listed the falls as 97 feet tall. Where this number came from is unknown, but because it stood unquestioned for so long, we suspect it stems from the early 20th century when the falls were first discovered and is likely not accurate despite the oddly precise figure.
- Tumalo Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.
The exact origin of the word Tumalo is not known. According to the book Oregon Geographic Names, there are three possibilities; one is that is is from the Klamath Indian word Temelo, meaning wild plumb - which were at one point abundant in south central Oregon. Another Klamath word, Temola, meaning ground fog, could have been used to describe the nature of the Tumalo Creek area or perhaps the mist generated by the falls. A third, and most logical in our opinion, is that the original name may have been Tumallowa, which is said to mean icy water - an adjective which fits considering Tumalo Creek is fed by glacial melt. It is presumed however that the falls were named after the creek.
The Tumalo Falls area is located about 10 miles west of Bend beneath Broken Top. From Highway 97 in Bend, turn west on Franklin Street. As Franklin runs through town, it parallels a nice park along the Deschutes River. Just after this park - about a mile from 97 - turn right and cross the River on Galveston Street. After passing Century Drive, Galveston turns into Skyliners Road. Follow Skyliners Road for 10 Â½ miles, and turn left on FSR 4601, signed for Tumalo Falls, just after crossing Tumalo Creek. This gravel route ends in another 2 1/2 miles at the Tumalo Falls Trailhead. The lower viewpoint is a mere 50 feet from the parking lot, looking up the gorge at the powerful falls. An easy trail zigzags up to the top of the falls for a different perspective.