White River Falls provides stunning views, history
One of the little-known parks in the state of Oregon is White River Falls State Park.
The park has a Maupin address, but is actually closer to Tygh Valley.
During the winter there are no services at the park. The restrooms and the main portion of the parking area are closed. There is a small parking area near the highway that will hold approximately six cars. Once parked, visitors need to walk through a narrow gate, heading south.
There is a viewpoint about 100 yards from the parking area that looks down on the top half of White River Falls. The double fall plunges 90 feet over a basalt shelf. However, only the top half of the falls can be seen from the viewpoint.
A steep and rocky trail leads down from the viewpoint to the river below. About halfway down the trail the lower falls come into view. At the bottom of the falls is the remains of an old power plant. The hydroelectric plant, which was one of the first hydroelectric plants in Oregon, supplied power to Wasco and Sherman counties from 1910 until the completion of The Dalles Dam in 1960.
Since then, the plant has fallen into a state of disrepair with portions of the pipe which carried water from the top of the falls to the turbine missing. There is now a pair of holes in the roof of the power plant, and plywood covering where the doors once were. The interior of the power plant is off limits to the public, however, people have broken in and covered the inside of the plant with graffiti.
Despite the state of disrepair, the plant is still worth a visit.
The falls are largest during the spring, slowing to a trickle late in summer. Recently, heavy rains in the mountains have filled the White River and the falls are roaring.
There are picnic benches in a grassy area above the falls. There is also a small sandy beach near the hydroelectric plant at the bottom of the trail, which makes a great spot for a picnic, or photo opportunities. During the summer, some people also swim in the pool below the falls.
In the past, a few kayakers have taken the plunge down both sections of the falls. However, that is now against park rules.
There are two easy routes to the falls, making it possible to make a loop out of a large portion of the trip. Take Highway 97 north from Madras, veer left shortly after the Cow Canyon rest area onto Highway 197. Follow 197 north to Maupin.
The fastest route to the park is to drive through Maupin, continuing north on 197. Approximately 11 miles from Maupin, turn right onto Highway 216 (Sherars Bridge Highway). The park will be on the right approximately three miles up the highway.
The other option to reach the falls is to turn right on Bakeoven Road just before the bridge over the Deschutes in downtown Maupin. Almost immediately, take a left onto the BLM access road which follows the Deschutes downstream for 27 miles. Cross the river at Sherars Bridge and take Highway 216 to the park, which will be about seven miles down the road from where you crossed the Deschutes on the left.
White River Falls is about 90 miles from Prineville to the park. It is about 68 miles to the park from Madras.
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