Finally Finding Benham and Dillon Falls

I got an early start with the idea to check out Tumalo Falls, figuring to get there while the light was still good. On the way back into Bend, Oregon a side trip out to Benham and Dillon Falls on the Deschutes River looked like it would be fairly straightforward. On paper it looked pretty simple. However, the day didn’t quite go as planned.

Getting to Forest Service Road 1828 to Tumalo Falls was pretty easy and the directions were good—the only problem was that the FS road was gated about 2 miles from the waterfalls. I thought briefly about trying to drive under the gate, but a rough measurement of the height of the car and the height of the gate suggested that wasn’t a good idea. Hiking in and out along the road wasn’t very appealing as well, especially since I knew that Benham and Dillon Falls were both a little more accessible.

So … back into Bend as the day got brighter and brighter. My difficulties began with my guidebooks which referred to turning left (when coming from Bend) onto Century Drive (or Cascade Lakes Highway) from Galveston Avenue. The problem is that Galveston intersects with NW 14th Street (which eventually becomes SW Century Drive). I lost more of the good early morning light driving up and down Galveston Avenue (which incidentally changes to Skyline Drive on the other side of NW 14th) looking for Century Drive. Having a map of Bend might have helped.

Several wrong turns later and a scenic drive through suburban Bend, I connected up with SW Century Drive which got me to the Cascades Lakes Highway. I eventually found the turn off for Forest Service Road 41

From this point on, everything was well signed and the Forest Service road was in good shape. The side road down to Benham was fine for a compact car, but was a bit bumpy in places. Snow tires definitely a good call as there was still plenty of hard packed icy snow on the road.

Benham Falls
Early morning sun shining through the trees at Benham Falls on the Deschutes River near Bend, Oregon.

Benham Falls was quite interesting, but challenging to photograph. The falls here are more of a series of drops over a long stretch of river bounded by steep rock. Because of my late start the sun was well up and created harsh contrasts between the shadowed section of the cascades and brightly lit sections of the river upstream. Hard packed icy snow made walking treacherous.

Benham Falls Rocks
Water flowing around rocks in the middle of the long cascade of Benham Falls on the Deschutes River, Oregon.

I converted both of these images to black and white to get an end result that neutralizes the wonky contrasts of the colour versions.

From Benham, I retraced my route and stopped at Dillon Falls. Again, light was a challenge here in the morning with the sun shining through the trees and creating harsh shadows on the water and lots of contrast between dark and light.

Dillon Falls
One of the first drops at Dillon Falls on the Deschutes River. There was a second slightly larger drop just downstream from this one.

There are several smallish drops at Dillon and I think that with more even light there could be some good compositions here. Converting these images from colour to black and white seemed to make them work better.

Rocks Below Dillon Falls
The lava rock at Dillon Falls was fascinating.
Contrasty light and the remnants of snow made it challenging to capture.

Both of these falls are gorgeous places to visit. While I wasn’t 100% happy with my photographs at both locations, I’m thinking that re-shooting these waterfalls with better light (late afternoon/early evening might be better) is a good reason to revisit and spend a little more time in Bend. At least I now know how to get there!

More images on my Tumblr at Deschutes River Waterfalls

Basic directions from downtown Bend:

  • follow NW Franklin Avenue west, it turns into NW Riverside Boulevard and follows along a park
  • turn right onto NW Galveston Avenue (if it turns into Skyline Drive you’ve gone too far)
  • turn left onto NW 14th Street, it becomes SW Century Drive
  • turn right from SW Century Drive where it connects with the Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway
  • turn left on Forest Service Road 41 (well signed)
  • both Dillon Falls and Benham Falls access roads are well signed from FS Road 41