The Story Behind ‘Rainbow at Spirit Falls’

Rainbow at Spirit Falls

Spirit Falls is on the Little White Salmon River in the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington side.

Lately I’ve been making it a point to visit many places that I had always wanted to visit. Crater Lake, Abiqua Falls, Thor’s Well, Palouse Falls.. and now Spirit Falls. The list is ever growing so I have to try and keep it balanced. 🙂 The awesome thing about the Pacific Northwest is that there’s o much beauty to be had in a one or two day drive. I can’t get over how lucky I feel to live here.

I promised myself I wouldn’t do a play on the words ‘Spirit’ or ‘Falls’ in the title of this photo. In fact.. I generally don’t like titling photos all fancy. I like a simple descriptive title. So that’s what I gave it.

This was my first trip to Spirit Falls and I did it solo. This is not recommended. Like.. at all. This river is world renowned in the kayaking world. It takes tremendous skill to run this river and the dangers are plentiful. That being said.. only two people have died running the river… which is pretty amazing to me. Good job y’all!

I was driving through the gorge towards this spot in some dense fog. I was hoping I would get some in the canyon and things were looking hopeful for that. As I rounded the bend at Dog Mountain (just before the turnoff) the sky went from 100% cloudy and foggy to 100% sunny. Just like that. Thus is weather in the Columbia River Gorge.

The hike down to the falls is a scramble down a steep moss covered talus slope. It was easy going but definitely not for the casual hiker. From the top of the slope to the bottom the roar of the falls was ever present and grew more intense as I approached. Finally reaching the river, I sat and admired the absolute POWER this falls was emitting.

Here’s a video I shot upon arriving. Apologies for the exposure. I was more concerned with shooting still frames at this point. 🙂

The turbulence and turmoil of the river and the spray were intimidating. Nonetheless I scrambled around looking for interesting perspectives.

The thing is.. there aren’t a ton to be had. The most interesting perspective (and thus.. the most shot) requires a scramble/climb down a small cliff (that also functions as a creek.. so you have to deal with that too), trusting the strength of a rope that has been there for who knows how long, all the while knowing that a slip and subsequent failed attempt to arrest your fall would put you right into a lower fall/cauldron in the river that is nicknamed ‘Chaos’. I’m not kidding. Did I mention I was alone? STUPID! *gulp* (Mom.. you’re not reading this are you? If you are.. I’m TOTALLY kidding!! Yeah..)

It was still early in the morning and the sun hadn’t hit the canyon yet. I played around and investigated some perspectives.. all the while having my friend ‘Chaos’ reminding me that in the end… I’m not in charge. Some of these perspectives and comps put both my tripod leg and my own leg on the absolute edge of the rock above ‘Chaos’. I should have been tied off to something.


My 'Just in case' shot.

With cold and wet hands I waited to see what would happen lighting-wise as the light finally started to round the bend and enter the canyon. I finally felt warmth!!! I held my hands to the sun to warm them up and took in several minutes of the light on my face. When I turned around.. I saw this. So I took a photo.

I didn’t see anyone else the whole time I was there.. but I’m sure kayak folk would have been drooling at the flow this day.

I packed up and hiked out. Finally hitting the warmth on the talus slope felt great. Adrenaline subsided and I reviewed some of the shots on the LCD. I was happy to get something I enjoyed.

When I go back I will DEFINITELY take someone a long. As well as some rope and knowledge how to use it.


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