Silver Falls State Park

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Silver Falls State Park
South Falls, Silver Falls State Park.jpg
South Falls
Silver Falls State Park is located in Oregon
Silver Falls State Park
TypePublic, state
LocationMarion County, Oregon
Nearest citySilverton
Coordinates44°51′04″N 122°38′46″W / 44.8512332°N 122.6461975°W / 44.8512332; -122.6461975Coordinates: 44°51′04″N 122°38′46″W / 44.8512332°N 122.6461975°W / 44.8512332; -122.6461975[1]
Operated byOregon Parks and Recreation Department
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Silver Falls State Park
South Falls, Silver Falls State Park.jpg
South Falls
Silver Falls State Park is located in Oregon
Silver Falls State Park
TypePublic, state
LocationMarion County, Oregon
Nearest citySilverton
Coordinates44°51′04″N 122°38′46″W / 44.8512332°N 122.6461975°W / 44.8512332; -122.6461975Coordinates: 44°51′04″N 122°38′46″W / 44.8512332°N 122.6461975°W / 44.8512332; -122.6461975[1]
Operated byOregon Parks and Recreation Department

Silver Falls State Park is a state park in the U.S. state of Oregon, located near Silverton, about 20 miles (32 km) east-southeast of Salem. It is the largest state park in Oregon with an area of more than 9,000 acres (36 km2), and it includes more than 24 miles (39 km) of walking trails, 14 miles (23 km) of horse trails, and a 4-mile (6.4 km) bike path. Its 8.7-mile (14.0 km) Canyon Trail/Trail of Ten Falls runs along the banks of Silver Creek and by ten waterfalls, from which the park received its name. Four of the ten falls have an amphitheater-like surrounding that allows the trail to pass behind the flow of the falls.[2] The Silver Falls State Park Concession Building Area and the Silver Creek Youth Camp-Silver Falls State Park are separately listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

The park's most visited waterfall is South Falls, a 177-foot (54 m) cascade.[3] Remote Double Falls, however, is listed as the highest waterfall in the park, plunging 178 feet (54 m) in a small tributary side canyon deep within the Silver Creek Canyon.


Silver Falls State Park Concession Building Area
Silver Falls Lodge west elevation - Oregon.jpg
Silver Falls Lodge
Nearest citySublimity, Oregon
ArchitectJ. Elwood Isted
Governing bodyState
NRHP Reference #


Silver Creek Youth Camp – Silver Falls State Park
Nearest citySublimity, Oregon
Coordinates44°51′23″N 122°36′31″W / 44.85639°N 122.60861°W / 44.85639; -122.60861
ArchitectKeith R. Maguire, Jr.
Architectural styleNational Park Service rustic
Governing bodyState
NRHP Reference #02000673[4]
Added to NRHPJune 20, 2002
Added to NRHPJune 30, 1983

Silver Falls City formed in 1888 and was primarily a logging community with a few homesteaders, and the area was extensively logged. By 1900 a Silverton photographer, June D. Drake, began to campaign for park status, using his photographs of the falls to gain support. (Drake Falls was later named for him.)[5] In 1926, however, an inspector for the National Park Service rejected the area for park status because of a proliferation of unattractive stumps.

In 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that the Silver Falls area would be turned into a Recreational Demonstration Area. Private land that had been logged was purchased, and workers in the Civilian Conservation Corps were employed to develop park facilities, including the historic South Falls Lodge, completed in the late 1930s. It was used as a restaurant from 1946 until the late 1950s and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Silver Falls State Park Concession Building Area in 1983.[6] The Silver Creek Youth Camp—Silver Falls State Park was also added to the National Register at this time.

In January 2008, during the 2008 supplemental legislative session, Fred Girod of the Oregon House of Representatives sought federal designation of the area as a national park via a house joint memorial to the United States Congress, but the bill died in committee.[7]


The history of the canyon's formation begins about 26 million years ago to the Oligocene period, when most of Oregon was covered by ocean. After the waters of the ocean receded about 15 million years ago, the flood basalt flows of the Columbia River Basalt Group covered the sandstone that had been the ocean floor. The softer layers of sandstone beneath the basalt sheet eroded over time, creating pathways behind some of the waterfalls which Civilian Conservation Corps workers widened to make safe for public use. Another geologic feature are many tree "chimneys" or casts, formed when hot lava engulfed living trees and disintegrated them.[8]


Within the park are many waterfalls, including ten along the Trail of Ten Falls (marked * in the table below) and five more below the confluence of the North and South forks of Silver Creek. [9]

Distance on trailWaterfallStreamHeight
0.0South Falls*South Fork7002177000000000000177 feet (54 m)
0.8Lower South Falls*South Fork700193000000000000093 feet (28 m)
1.1(Confluence of N. & S. Forks)Silver Creek(N/A)
2.1Lower North Falls*North Fork700130000000000000030 feet (9.1 m)
2.1 + 0.1 on side trailDouble Falls*Hullt Creek7002178000000000000178 feet (54 m)
2.3Drake Falls*North Fork700127000000000000027 feet (8.2 m)
2.5Middle North Falls*North Fork7002106000000000000106 feet (32 m)
2.7 + 0.5 on side trailWinter Falls*Winter Creek7002134000000000000134 feet (41 m)
3.0Twin Falls*North Fork700131000000000000031 feet (9.4 m)
3.9North Falls*North Fork7002136000000000000136 feet (41 m)
4.6Upper North Falls*North Fork700165000000000000065 feet (20 m)
1.1 + ? below confluenceCrag FallsSilver Creek700112000000000000012 feet (3.7 m)
1.1 + ? below confluenceElbow FallsSilver Creek700120000000000000020 feet (6.1 m)
1.1 + ? below confluenceCanyon FallsSilver Creek700110000000000000010 feet (3.0 m)
1.1 + ? below confluenceLisp FallsSilver Creek70005000000000000005 feet (1.5 m)
1.1 + ? below confluenceSunlight FallsSilver Creek70005000000000000005 feet (1.5 m)
(just before start of trail)Frenchie Falls[10]Frenchie Creek700148000000000000048 feet (15 m)
(3.5 above start of trail)Trickle FallsTributary of S. Fork ?

The Friends of Silver Falls[edit]

Volunteers inspired by the beauty and history of Silver Falls have been active there since establishment of the park in 1933. In 1986, the citizens and the park staff envisioned a mission and established the Friends of Silver Falls State Park, Inc. That mission is "to further the educational and interpretive opportunities available to park visitors; to promote the preservation, protection and enhancement of the historical, natural, and recreational resources within the park; and to assist in the implementing park improvements and educational programs compatible with the nature of Silver Falls State Park."[11]

As a result, this private and public partnership has created a more meaningful park experience for the nearly one million annual visitors to the park, far beyond what state park funding alone can provide.[11]

Since 1992, volunteers of the Friends of Silver Falls State Park have operated the Nature Store in historic South Falls Lodge. This store offers a variety of books, clothing and souvenirs in keeping with the park's nature theme. The organization has also been responsible for much of the interpretive signage along the Trail of Ten Falls.[11]

Other goals of the Friends include compiling oral histories from those who have memories of the park region, keeping alive the history of Silver Falls City, recognizing the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and 1940s, maintaining the park's historic district, and continuing to place interpretive signs throughout the park's more than 9,000 acres (36 km2).[11]

In culture[edit]

The park has been used as a filming location in several movies. The 1981 horror film Just Before Dawn was shot entirely on location in the park;[12] it also served as a filming location for William Friedkin's thriller The Hunted (2003), and the blockbuster film Twilight (2008).


  1. ^ "Silver Falls State Park". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2011-06-26. 
  2. ^ "Silver Falls State Park". Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Retrieved September 1, 2007. 
  3. ^ "Recreation in Salem Oregon". Salem, Oregon Convention & Visitors Association. Archived from the original on November 22, 2006. Retrieved January 28, 2007. 
  4. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2006-03-15. 
  5. ^ Engeman, Richard H. (2009). The Oregon Companion: An Historical Gazetteer of The Useful, The Curious, and The Arcane. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-88192-899-0. 
  6. ^ "Oregon Hikes - Silver Falls". Retrieved September 1, 2007. 
  7. ^ "House Joint Memorial 101". Oregon Legislative Assembly. 2008. Retrieved December 31, 2008. 
  8. ^ "Silver Falls Trailmap". Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Retrieved September 1, 2007. 
  9. ^ Freed, Michael (January 1979). "Silver Falls State Park" (PDF). Oregon Geology (Portland: Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries) 41 (1): 3–10. Retrieved April 19, 2009. 
  10. ^ Swan, Bryan. "Frenchie Falls". Northwest Waterfall Survey. Retrieved 4 November 2012. "Frenchie Falls is the black sheep 11th waterfall along the Trail of Ten Falls within Silver Falls State Park." 
  11. ^ a b c d "Friends of Silver Falls". Retrieved December 30, 2008. 
  12. ^ Just Before Dawn: Lions, Tigers and Inbred Twins Documentary [DVD]. Shriek Factory/Media Blasters. 2005.

External links[edit]