This week, I traveled to White River Falls State Park, one of the Cove’s neighboring parks to the north. Even though this park is not exactly Cove Palisades, I felt compelled to write a post about the park and it’s features because they are A. amazing and B. in somewhat close proximity as Oregon go’s and C. in danger of disintegration.
Nestled in the heart of Tygh Valley’s golden grain lies what might be one of Oregon’s greatest historical treasures, if we can manage not to destroy it.
The waterfalls at White River Falls State Park are so majestic! There are many waterfalls in Oregon I’ve seen, but this spot may be my favorite. There is something amazing about encountering the falls after driving down country roads through hundreds of flat wheat fields and sky that stretches as far as the eye can see. At first, you might not really understand what the luster is, as the place looks like a regular ole’ park when you make your final turn towards your destination. However, as you venture closer to the canyon, you will find yourself awestruck by the mystical oasis of the falls cascading over million-year old basalt. The mist kisses your face, and the green lush of the painted scene is so abstract to the surrounding environment, it’s startling.
If you decide to venture down the canyon towards the river, a dirt trail will wind you a quarter-mile through sage and brush down to the classic hydoelectric plant and other buildings used by past power companies. I will tell you, this adventure (though short) makes you feel right smack in the middle of an Indiana Jones movie. Those with any ounce of imagination will hope to find some kind of hidden artifact in the walls or sage or by the water. Though you likely won’t find jewels or golden idols, you will encounter some “ancient” artifacts that tell the unique story of the area’s histories, strung about in the shape of pipes, turbines, and wheels. The enchanting puzzle will leave you curious about what pieces go where and how they fit.
This curiosity has obviously enticed other visitors to a new level, as the building is barely intact. Water isn’t the only thing falling in the area, as the old plant is about to kick due to visitors climbing around and in the building. Sadly, the facility is in danger of crumbling completely to the ground unless visitors decide to respect the signs by admiring the place instead from the outside in lieu of entering it. The place is not only on it’s last nail, but also very dangerous to climb around in, even for the most skilled of explorers. There are multiple sharp boards, old metal pieces, and areas to fall where those who enter truly risk infection, injury, or death.
The hydroelectric power plant might look like abandoned shambles now, but at one time this building was the spur for an improvement of life for those who lived in Sherman and Wasco counties in the early 1900’s. The power plant and all of it’s appendages involved the enormous effort of many people, as men had to transport materials down steep and rugged terrain. This history is irreplaceable, and even though signs are in place and entering the plant is strongly discouraged, visitors would rather risk losing the plant completely by going inside instead of helping to keep it intact. I know you’ve heard “stay on the trail” over and over, leave-no-trace ethic, but this time I can not stress it more! This beautiful, enchanting building may not be able to handle even one more step, so let’s keep the area picturesque by keeping out of the structure. My hope with this post is to encourage readers who may visit the White River Falls to be a positive influence on the place by staying on the trail. It’s the ONLY way we can keep the areas precious history from truly crumbling forever.