Salmon River Gorge
1983 Anniversary
Expedition to the 
Upper Falls

In the early 1980s, I was involved in a student effort to designate a wilderness area for the Salmon River and surrounding backcountry. While researching the history of the Salmon River, I was surprised to learn that the chain of waterfalls in the Salmon River Gorge had only been officially named in 1963. I had hiked the Salmon River trail many times, but had only glimpsed the falls from the trail, which skirts high above the Salmon River Gorge. The exception was Little Niagra Falls, an abrupt 15 foot torrent, that I had bushwacked to some years before. The volume and scale of that falls - the smallest of the named falls on the Salmon - compelled me to visit the other falls that were named in 1963

In the spring of 1983, I organized two expeditions with college friends from Oregon State University to visit the depths of the Salmon River Gorge. These trips to the falls were a 20th Anniversary tribute to the original Oregon Geographic Names Board (OGNB) expedition that visited and named the falls in the summer of 1963. My 1983 tribute expeditions included friends Dave O'Dell, Jon Osborn and Doug Lorain, who each appear in some of the photographs that follow.

The first 1983 mission was to Split and Stein falls, the two uppermost in the chain of six named falls. Stein Falls is the name proposed in1963 by W. Kirk Braun, honoring Bobby and Johnny Stein of Welches, who were killed in World War II. The falls occur a two part drop, with the upper falls cascading in a white, 35 foot curtain into a deep pool, then immediately plunging over a violent, 75 foot cataract that roars into a massive amphitheater, framed by 300 foot cliffs.

Braun proposed the name Split Falls for the next cataract in the string. The name aptly describes a falls where the Salmon River is split by a giant wedge of basalt into two 35 foot falls.

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These photos are ©Tom Kloster 1983, and may not be used without permission

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