Long before I had first visited Rock Creek Falls, I had heard rumors of a lower fall in the gorge downstream, but had never seen any pictures of it. Then, slowly, one or two pictures and a little information started to trickle in. One shot showed a fairly hefty plunge, but on a rather low volume stream, which made me skeptical. Eventually, some kayakers with balls the size of watermelons found it, ran it and got it on video. Now, extrapolating the size and volume of the falls half a mile upstream, imagine the same stream plunging a sheer 53 feet into a craggy gorge carved out of incredibly erratic Conglomerate bedrock. Now, being headed by a 53 foot waterfall would be good enough, but geologically, this gorge is really cool in other ways as well. A layer of volcanic ash is plainly visible stratified above the layer of conglomerate on the far side of the gorge. Also of note is the pitch of the conglomerate formation, angling down towards the Columbia River. This would point to the formation having been formed by the landslide that occurred when the south faces of Greenleaf Peak and Table Mountain collapsed and dammed the Columbia River - an event that is thought to have formed both the cascades at Cascade Locks, and the basis for the legend of the Bridge of the Gods. Compounding the bedrock formation, just 80 years ago this waterfall was immensely different. The falls formerly consisted of a pair of cascades over a rounded wedge of the conglomerate formation. Apparently some time between 1940 and 1990 (I'm not certain exactly when), a lava tube below the creek at this point collapsed and took everything above it along for the ride, which resulted in deepening the canyon and giving Rock Creek a better bite on the bedrock, allowing it to migrate a hundred feet or so upstream in the time since. The result is the current fall, plunging into a deep pool, framed by a rather desolate gorge. As a further testament to the unstable nature of this area, the east wall of the canyon started sliding into the creek in the fall of 2006 and during the floods in 2006, the creek took a huge chunk of the hillside down and partially buried the canyon. Reports seem to indicate that the falls had been reduced to half its previous height as a result of this landslide, however as of May 2009, if the falls had been buried at all, it no longer is as the pool below the falls is intact and larger than ever. The falls are currently accessible to the public, but nearby development has recently increased, and I frankly wouldn't be surprised if eventually the adjoining property turns private and the falls become someone's personal view.
- Lower Rock Creek Falls is the name of this waterfall.
- Known Alternate Names: Money Drop
The earliest photographs I have seen of this waterfall date back to the late 1930s, but given the development in Stevenson earlier in the 20th century, I have to believe this waterfall was known well before that.
This one is a little tricky to find, so be sure to have a good map and a keen eye for street signs. The easiest way to access the falls is to take Highway 14 one mile west of Stevenson to Rock Creek Drive (also signed as Second Street or Foster Creek Road in some places) and turn north, passing the Skamania Lodge and Resort (use this as a landmark for the proper turnoff). In Â¾ mile, turn left onto Ryan Allen Road. Very shortly thereafter, turn right onto 1 Man Cemetery Road (usually mislabeled as Iman Cemetery) and follow for about Â¾ miles, then turn right onto Falls Road and follow to its end. Park where there is room, but not as to intrude on adjacent homeowners land. At the end of the road, a trail passes a wooden barrier and descends steeply into the woods. Follow the sounds of the creek and you'll eventually come out along the rim of the barren canyon next to the falls about 300 feet from the roads end. Be very careful at the rim of the canyon, the rock is unstable and may crumble very easily.