hiking and trails, nature, photography, travel

Opal Creek Wilderness: Henline Falls

I am super excited to have the opportunity to lend my writing skills and outdoor adventure fun to write up some personal trail descriptions for an in-the-works guidebook covering the Willamette Valley! Wild in the Willamette is a literary compendium and guidebook to natural areas in the mid-Willamette Valley and is set to be published in 2015.

I have been assigned to write about the Opal Creek Wilderness Area, including Henline Falls Trail.

Read about Opal Creek Wilderness, part 1, with photos and stories about Three Pools!

We went to Henline Falls and had a lovely time along the trail. It was easy to hike, with a few different terrains throughout and lots of active wildlife! We enjoyed the anticipation of listening to the rushing water as we neared the falls.

Once there, we were able to walk right up to the falls, as they plunged down a 126 foot drop over the side of a narrow alcove. Being the dry summer season, the water flow was really light, with the rocks splitting the flow into two distinct channels of water and smaller cascades throughout. This gave us a nice view of the beautiful rock, which I’m guessing is not usually seen (as well) during the wet season.

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Immediately to the right of the base of the falls is the Silver King Mine. Remnants of a tramway leading from the mine are one of the first things you come across when the trail presents the falls. There was another family there that hadn’t visited for over a decade. They were really excited to take their kids through the cave, but were quickly let down when they realized it had since been closed off. There was still a dark corridor to walk down, but I guess for safety reasons, the rest of the shaft had been closed off. I searched Google for a historic timeline of the cave and came across a story from 2003 (and maybe another from 2006) when it was still accessible.  So it seems that it was closed off sometime in the last decade.

Just to the right of the falls was the main shaft.   This shaft was the main crosscut into the mountain and was 1700 feet long!…At one point you could look back and still see the entrance light, but it looked like a pinhole.

Towards the end of the shaft, it curves to the left and you can no longer see the entrance.  It is extremely dark and a bit cold and wet. There were almost no remains inside the shaft all.  Just rock, dirt and water. ” – Briam McCamish

So for Sylvan and I, and everyone else who visits this present day cave, you get to walk into the cave for only a moment before you hit a metal barrier. I’m horrible with measuring distances like this, so I’ll just say it was still bright and safe.

I think in the silhouette photo below, Sylvan was backed up against the metal barrier when he took the photo. This gives you an idea of the short distance that is currently accessible.

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After Henline, we drove up to our final destination at Opal Creek. As we drove up the hill, we started to see a line of cars along the road….and then more…and then many many more. As we rounded a small curve, we saw at least a hundred cars lining the road down to the main parking lot. I wish more than anything I would have taken a photo of the sight. It was outrageous. My stomach turned as my car slowly crawled down to the trailhead. I knew I was a bit ignorant when it came to planning our last minute day trip…But when people talked about Opal Creek being busy, I wasn’t expecting a crowd like this.  We looked at each other with straight faces and simultaneously agreed that we would skip Opal and plan for a not-so-busy time to visit again.

As I search the web for information and hikes around Opal, I am finding so many amazing places and activities. I am already refilled with excitement and cannot wait to visit again! Next time, I will arrive with a map in hand, and actually get some hiking and camping in (and maybe even some KAYAKING in the future??!!) I’m thinking a Thursday/Friday sounds rather nice.

We visited a few other spots, but I will save those stories and photos for my next post, as they were outside of the Opal Creek Wilderness. The area all around it rather beautiful! There are so many little turn offs to stop and enjoy the waterways!

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