Wallace Falls State Park

On a recent road trip through Washington and Oregon, I decided to stop and check out Wallace Falls State Park. It was fairly late in the day, but the walk didn’t look too far or too strenuous so I figured I could do it before it got dark. The beginning part of the trail isn’t too appealing as it follows an access road underneath a power line. However, it quickly reaches the forest and a walking trail leaves the road and makes its way down to the river.

Small Falls
Small Falls flows down through a series of boulders and fallen trees before feeding into the Wallace River.
ISO 100, 16mm, f/11, 30 sec – Nikon D600

The first waterfall on the trail is Small Falls. Appropriately named, it is little more than a steeply flowing stream that works its way around boulders and logs. While my primary destination was Wallace Falls, the window of available light was limited so I figured it would be worth spending some time photographing the falls here. While not overly impressive in terms of size, Small Falls is very interesting to photograph. I actually think I like these small feeder streams more than the main attractions—compositionally they’re much more complex, but also more accessible.

Photographing waterfalls in the winter time is challenging—it isn’t a pretty time of year and while there’s still plenty of green salad and ferns around the edges of the water, things are messy. Often the water is more visible, but the lush vegetation that you can use as a frame has given way to broken stalks, bare tree limbs, battered plants.

From Small Falls I carried on to Picnic Falls (approximately 2.5 km from the parking area). There are several view points at Picnic Falls which drops approximately 15 meters down into a pool. I struggled to find a good photograph here since the light was poor and the day was moving on toward dusk. The main drop was hemmed in by vegetation and the snow on the ground and logs added too much contrast. I ended getting a decent image of the river just above the drop that worked reasonably well.

Picnic Falls
The Wallace River flowing though rocky channel before taking a sharp left hand turn and dropping over Picnic Falls.
ISO 100, 16mm, f/16, 2.5 sec – Nikon D600

From the picnic shelter at Picnic Falls you can see the magnificent 80 meter drop of Wallace Falls through a gap in the trees looking upstream (tried a couple of images but the poor light made good compositions impossible). It looks like it is quite a ways off and two hikers who arrived while I was there thought that with the failing light it was too far to go. After they headed back, I decided to walk another 20 minutes and see if I could find a better view point.

Wallace Falls
The namesake falls of Wallace Falls State Park – a stunning 80 meter drop.
ISO 100, 29 mm, f/22, 6 sec – Nikon D600

I was definitely glad that I made that choice! The next bit of trail switchbacked up a gentle grade and does reach a viewpoint an easy 10 to 15 minutes from the picnic shelter. Wallace Falls is stunning and it was good to appreciate it from a closer perspective. In terms of a photography, the light was definitely far from perfect and unobstructed views of the entire falls were next to impossible. Probably a bit better when things green up in the spring.

There are additional waterfalls further up the trail and a closer viewpoint of Wallace Falls, but I had run out of time. With the light failing, I hiked back out to the parking area through a quickly darkening forest looking forward to a hot cup of coffee and something to eat. Didn’t quite need the flashlight in my backpack, but I was glad that I had it with me!