Deep in the Willamette National Forest of western Oregon, where the McKenzie River flows, you will find dazzling waterfalls. Two of them, Sahalie and Koosah Falls, are easy to get to and worth taking the time to see.
Sahalie (meaning “heaven” or “high”) and Koosah (“sky” or “shining”) are native Chinook words which beautifully describe these lofty falls. It has been said that those of the Chinook tribe traveled this area at one time, where they also exchanged goods with the Kalapuya, Molalla, and Sahaptain people.
You will want to be sure to take the time to enjoy the cascading beauty, powerful roar and glimmering rainbows these falls produce.
From the viewpoint overlooking Sahalie Falls, the sound of the water moving over the 100 foot drop is loud indeed. The more adventurous visitors take a secondary path lower down, to get an up-close experience near the bottom of the falls. They must walk with care due to the slippery moss and rocks, and they are sure to get wet from the tremendous spray of water!
The Koosah waterfall drops about 70 feet into a deep pool. Only half a mile away down the highway is the turn out to access Sahalie Falls. Each site has a parking lot with a short, well-built hiking trail. In fact, by following the 2.6 mile Waterfalls Loop Trail both the Sahalie and Koosah falls can be reached in one hike. In addition, avid hikers may be interested to know that this loop is part of the much larger McKenzie River National Recreational Trail.
Sightseers can find these falls off Highway 126, about 34 miles west of Sisters, Oregon or 72 miles north east of Eugene, Oregon. Keep in mind, that Highway 126 travels through dense forest which easily shrouds the turn-offs to the parking lots near the river. We discovered the signs can be overlooked, and had to backtrack in order to find them.
If you are driving west from Bend or Sisters, Oregon, you will wind your way through steep passes in the Cascade mountains on Hwy 20. To see these falls, you need to turn south onto Hwy 126. Be sure to keep an eye open for this junction, which is the route to Springfield and Eugene, Oregon.
Once you have reached the parking lot for Sahalie falls, there is level access just around the corner to view the falls from above, even from a wheelchair. A shady foot path has been carved through the lush, old growth conifer forest. Almost always, there are several visitors during the warmer months when there is no snow.
Make it a plan to visit these sites on the McKenzie River in Oregon. Being there is a great experience and one that is sure to inspire more adventures along the McKenzie River in the Pacific Northwest.