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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Horsetail Falls, Oregon"
Includes ... Horsetail Falls ... Horsetail Creek ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Image, 2005, Horsetail Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Horsetail Falls, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken March 6, 2005.


Horsetail Falls ...
Horsetail Falls is one of the many falls in the Columbia River Gorge which can be seen off the Historic Columbia River Highway. Horsetail Falls is located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 138.5. The falls, located on Horsetail Creek, is a classic example of a horsetail formation. Horsetail Falls is 176 feet tall and 20 feet wide, and can be viewed from a turnout on the Historic Columbia River Highway 2 1/2 miles east of Multnomah Falls. Upstream of Horsetail Falls is Ainsworth State Park and downstream is Oneonta Tunnel and Gorge. The name "Horsetail Falls" has been used since Pioneer days.

Horsetail Falls in 1872 ...

Mrs. Frances Fuller Victor in her 1872 publication "All Over Oregon and Washington" describes Horsetail Falls, altho one wonders whether she is instead describing Multnomah Falls. ... (p.78).

" ... Frequently from lofty ledges and terraces of rock silvery water-falls are seen descending, hundreds of feet, to some basin hidden by intervening curtains of wooded ridges. From the steamer's deck they look like mere ribbons; some of them, indeed, are dashed into invisible spray before they reach a level. One of the handsomest of these falls has been named the Horse-tail, by somebody more given to ponies than to poetry. It has a straight descent, of several hundred feet, to a basin hidden from view, whence it descends by another fall to the level of the bottom-land, and formas another basin, or pool, among the dense growth of cottonwood, ash, and willow, which everywhere fringe the banks of the river. ..."


Historic Columbia River Highway ...
[More Historic Columbia River Highway]
[More HCRH Route]

  • HMP 34.6 ... Horsetail Falls/Creek Bridge (1914)
  • HMP 34.6 ... Masonry Walls and Kiosk (1940)
  • HMP 34.6 ... Masonry Walls and Parking Area (1985)
  • HMP 34.6 ... Portland Rotary Club Bronze Fountain Artwork (1916, 1985)
  • HMP 34.6 ... Horsetail Falls Developed Area

  • Horsetail Falls Bridge (1914):   "This three-span 60-foot reinforced-concrete deck girder trestle is 24 feet wide and has a roadway measuring 22 feet. The curb and guardrail form an integral unit, cantilevered out from the girder." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

    "This structure is a reinforced concrete girder span, 80 feet in length. It consists of three 20-foot slabs. This span is very similar to the 1914 Oneonta Gorge Bridge. ...   South of the bridge is Horsetail Falls (221 feet), visible from the bridge." [National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1983]

  • Masonry Walls and Kiosk (1940):   "The USDA Forest Service improved the area south of the CRH and near the Horsetail Falls plunge pool in 1940. This work included construction of masonry walls in the NPS "Rustic"-style, and an information kiosk. The Kiosk has a masonry base, with "1940" carved in the rock. A roofed timber structure, in a complimentary "Rustic" style is mounted above the base. These structures were refurbished during a 1985 project designed to enlarge the developed area." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

  • Masonry Walls and Parking Area (1985):   "In 1985, the USDA Forest Service landscaped a parking lot north of the CRH at this site. It also refurbished the existing walls south of the highway and constructed others in the same architectural style." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

  • Portland Rotary Club Bronze Fountain Artwork (1916, 1985):   "The Portland chapter of Rotary International dedicated this large bronze cog, the symbol of the organization, at Wahkeena Falls in 1916. It was the centerpiece of a large fountain. In 1985, the artwork was installed at Horsetail Falls, without its fountain base. The legend on one side of the cog reads "Portland Rotary Club 1916". On the reverse, the legend read the organization's motto, "He Profits Most Who Serves Best"." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

  • Horsetail Falls Developed Area:   "Horsetail Falls empties into a plunge pool southeast of the Horsetail Falls Bridge on the CRH. Masonry walls dating from 1940 and 1985, and the NPS "Rustic" style, define the plunge pool's northeast boundary. A picnic area is located east of the picnic area. Nearby, is located a large bronze cog, once part of a fountain located at Wahkeena Falls. On the north side of the CRH, a parking lot was improved and enlarged in 1985. It is bordered with "Rustic"-style walls and masonry curbs." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

Penny Postcard, Bridal Veil Falls, Oregon, ca.1930
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Horsetail Falls, Oregon, ca.1920. Penny Postcard, Postmarked 1920, "Horsetail Falls, Columbia River Highway, Oregon". Caption on back reads: "Horsetail Falls. A fine view of this beautiful water fall is obtained from the Columbia River Highway. The Horsetail Falls are 208 feet high. This picture shows the Cathedral Domes beyond.". Published by Lipschuetz and Katz Company, Portland, Oregon. Card is postmarked 1920. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Image, 2015, Historic Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Approach to Horsetail Falls, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken March 30, 2015.


Horsetail Falls Pool ...

Image, 2005, Horsetail Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Pool, Horsetail Falls, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken March 6, 2005.
Image, 2005, Horsetail Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Stonework, Horsetail Falls, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken March 6, 2005.


Horsetail Falls in 1940 ...
From the Oregon State Archives "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon":

"... HORSETAIL FALLS, 156.6 m., forming the design that gives it name, shoot downward across the face of the sheer rock wall into an excellent fishing pool. Spray from the pool continually drifts across the highway. East of the falls towers ST. PETERS DOME, a 2,000-foot basalt pinnacle. ..."


View from Washington State ...
Horsetail Falls can also be seen from the Franz Lake National Wildlife Refuge on the Washington side of the Columbia River.

Image, 2005, Horsetail Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Horsetail Falls, Oregon, as seen from Franz Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Washington. View from Washington State Highway 14. Image taken April 2, 2005.


Winter Waterfalls ...
A cold snap and freezing weather makes for great views of frozen waterfalls on both sides of the Columbia River Gorge, including Horsetail Falls.
[More]

Image, 2005, Horsetail Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Winter, Horsetail Falls, Oregon. Image taken December 10, 2005.
Image, 2005, Horsetail Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Horsetail Falls. Image taken December 10, 2005.
Image, 2005, Horsetail Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Icicles, Horsetail Falls. Image taken December 10, 2005.


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards". The "Penny Postcard" became a popular way to send greetings to friends and family. The Penny Postcard today is a part of history.

Penny Postcard, Bridal Veil Falls, Oregon, ca.1930
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Horsetail Falls, Oregon, ca.1920. Penny Postcard, Postmarked 1920, "Horsetail Falls, Columbia River Highway, Oregon". Caption on back reads: "Horsetail Falls. A fine view of this beautiful water fall is obtained from the Columbia River Highway. The Horsetail Falls are 208 feet high. This picture shows the Cathedral Domes beyond.". Published by Lipschuetz and Katz Company, Portland, Oregon. Card is postmarked 1920. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Bridal Veil Falls, Oregon, ca.1930
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Horsetail Falls, Oregon, ca.1930. Penny Postcard, ca.1930, "Horsetail Falls. 205 feet. Columbia River Highway, Oregon.". Penny Postcard, ca.1930, "Horsetail Falls. 205 feet. Columbia River Highway, Oregon.". Image copyright Cross & Dimmitt. Published by Angelus Commercial Studio, Portland, Oregon. Card #18. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 2, 1805 ...
Examined the rapid below us [from their camp at Fort Rains, looking at the Cascade Rapids] more pertcelarly the danger appearing too great to Hazzard our Canoes loaded, dispatched all the men who could not Swim with loads to the end of the portage below, I also walked to the end of the portage with the carriers where I delayed untill everry articles was brought over and canoes arrived Safe. here we brackfast and took a Meridn. altitude 59 45' 45" about the time we were Setting out 7 Squars came over loaded with Dried fish, and bear grass neetly bundled up, Soon after 4 Indian men came down over the rapid in a large canoe.     passed a rapid at 2 miles & 1 at 4 miles opposite the lower point of a high Island on the Lard Side [Bradford Island], and a little below 4 Houses on the Stard. Bank, a Small Creek on the Lard Side [Tanner Creek] opposit Straw berry Island [Hamilton Island], which heads below the last rapid, opposit the lower point of this Island [Hamilton Island] passed three Islands covered with tall timber [today there are two, Ives and Pierce] opposit the Beatin rock [Beacon Rock]    Those Islands are nearest the Starboard Side, imediately below on the Stard. Side passed a village of nine houses [indentified on Atlas map#79 as the "Wah-clallah Tribe of Shahala Nation", location near today's Skamania and Skamania Landing], which is Situated between 2 Small Creeks [Woodard Creek and Duncan Creek], and are of the Same construction of those above; here the river widens to near a mile, and the bottoms are more extensive and thickly timbered, as also the high mountains on each Side, with Pine, Spruce pine, Cotton wood, a Species of ash, and alder.     at 17 miles passed a rock near the middle of the river [Phoca Rock], about 100 feet high and 80 feet Diamuter,     proceed on down a Smoth gentle Stream of about 2 miles wide, in which the tide has its effect as high as the Beaten rock [Beacon Rock] or the Last rapids at Strawberry Island [Hamilton Island],- Saw great numbers of waterfowl of Different kinds, Such as Swan, Geese, white & grey brants, ducks of various kinds, Guls, & Pleaver [today just below Beacon Rock is Franz National Wildlife Refuge]. ...     we encamped under a high projecting rock on the Lard. Side [Rooster Rock, with Crown Point rising above it],     here the mountains leave the river on each Side [leaving the Columbia River Gorge, Steigerwald Land NWR is on the north and the Sandy River delta is on the south], which from the great Shute to this place is high and rugid [Columbia River Gorge]; thickly Covered with timber principalley of the Pine Species. The bottoms below appear extensive and thickly Covered with wood.     river here about 2 miles wide.     Seven Indians in a Canoe on their way down to trade with the nativs below, encamp with us, those we left at the portage passed us this evening and proceeded on down The ebb tide rose here about 9 Inches, the flood tide must rise here much higher- we made 29 miles to day from the Great Shute [Cascade Locks]-





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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources: Oregon State Archives website, 2005; U.S. Forest Service website, 2005, Gifford Pinchot National Forest; Victor, F.F., 1872, All Over Oregon and Washington: John H. Carmany & Co., San Francisco; Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest website, 2005.

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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April 2009