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About Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current | View Entire Issue (March 8, 2017)
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8, 2017
Life in the
PHOTOS BY ZACH URNESS/STATESMAN JOURNAL
Snoqualmie Falls as viewed from the lower viewpoint.
A mix of beauty and utility
Science and technology
shine at this waterfall
east of Seattle that was
the world’s first
underground power plant
There are so many similarities be-
tween Oregon’s Multnomah Falls and
Washington’s Snoqualmie Falls that it’s
difficult to name them all.
Both are iconic cascades located
close to a major metropolitan area,
Portland and Seattle.
Both get massive annual visitors —
2.5 million for Multnomah and 1.5 mil-
lion for Snoqualmie. Both are touristy,
with restaurants and gift shops, and
both are popular spots to host wed-
Despite these similarities, the expe-
rience of actually visiting the water-
falls couldn’t be more different.
Multnomah is a long and elegant
silver rope in a lush rainforest setting.
Ornamented by the stylish Benson Foot
Bridge, Oregon’s most famous falls is
an oil painting come to life.
Snoqualmie, by contrast, is a model
of utility. The world’s first underground
power plant was built here in 1899. It’s
now home to two power plants. Huge
penstocks — high-pressure pipes that
carry water into the plants — are vis-
ible on a hike through a park suffused
with utilitarian spirit.
That was my impression, anyway,
during a stop here last week. After
visiting family nearby, I decided to see
Snoqualmie with my daughter and dad.
A trip here starts with a drive east of
Seattle to the towns of Snoqualmie and
North Bend. Much of the cult-classic
television show “Twin Peaks” was
filmed here, and the waterfall is appar-
ently featured. (I haven’t seen the
In terms of experiencing the water-
fall, there’s two options. From the park-
ing area, you can easily walk to a view-
point overlooking the waterfall as it
roars 268-feet into a basin below. It’s a
The better option is a short but semi-
steep hike to a lower viewpoint. This
route takes you through an outdoor
museum of hydrologic equipment from
past to present.
The hike follows a gravel road 250
Lucy Urness walks through old hydro-power equipment on the trail down to the lower viewpoint of Snoqualmie Falls.
In a nutshell: A large, 268-foot waterfall east of Seattle in the town of Snoqualmie.
Highlights: Viewpoints of the falls from top and bottom; an outdoor museum of hydrologic
Hike: A short hike drops 250 feet from the parking lot to a lower viewpoint. The climb back up
can be steep.
Other highlights: Gift shop, restaurant, lodge.
feet down to river level, where you can
see the powerhouse, penstocks and
A boardwalk travels out over the
river to a viewpoint of the falls from
near its base. As a dad with an energy-
filled 2-year-old, I was grateful for the
gigantic fence that made it near impos-
sible for my daughter Lucy to fall into
If there’s one thing disappointing
about Snoqualmie Falls, it’s that the
power plants divert much of the river,
so the waterfall isn’t roaring at full
strength. I’ve seen pictures of it at truly
impressive flows, but it wasn’t on my
trip, despite a lot of recent rain.
Even so, a quick trip to Snoqualmie
Falls was worthwhile. It’s not as cool as
Multnomah Falls, in my Oregon-centric
opinion, but it’s still an impressive wa-
Zach Urness has been an outdoors
writer, photographer and videographer
in Oregon for eight years. He is the
author of the book “Hiking Southern
Oregon” and can be reached at
(503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at