Sahalie Falls is the first and tallest of three major waterfalls along the McKenzie River. This sheer plunge of 73 feet is broken into two segments when the river is running at its highest volume but is more commonly a single powerful plunge. 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". Well known as the falls may be, documentation of the falls over the years has seemingly had trouble establishing a firm height for the drop. Many accounts suggest the falls drop around 140 feet. A handful of gutsy whitewater kayakers who plunged over the falls measured the drop at 68 feet, while our measurement of the falls in 2010 came out to 73 feet. Whether the difference between these two numbers depends on the volume of water present in the river is unclear, but it is certain the falls are nowhere near 140 feet tall.
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. There is another waterfall of about 10 feet in height a short distance upstream.
- Sahalie Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.
- Known Alternate Names: Upper Falls
Sahalie Falls was originally known as Upper Falls before the Clear Lake area was developed for recreation. Sahalie is a Chinook Jargon word meaning "high". This naming might be questionable (though no less legitimate) because it isn't quite so tall when taken in the context of many of Oregon's other waterfalls.
Located south of Santiam Pass along Highway 126. From the junction of Highways 20 and 126 (approximately 70 miles east of I-5 in Albany via Highway 20, or 85 miles east of I-5 in Salem via Highway 22), follow Highway 126 south for about 4 Â½ miles to the signed parking area for Sahalie Falls. The falls are seen in less than 100 feet from the parking lot.