Oneonta Creek

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Oneonta Creek Canyoneering Canyoning Caving
Also known as: Oneonta Gorge.
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Oneonta Creek Banner.jpg

Difficulty:3C II (v3a4 II)
Raps:‌3+1 jump, max ↨150ft
Overall:4h ⟷2.6mi
Approach: ↑700ft
Descent: ⟷0.5mi ↓489ft
Red Tape:Closed to entry
Condition Reports:
28 Jun 2017

"Exhilarating intro to PNW canyons. We rapped the jump and managed our 300ft rope poorly, so it took us longer than it needed to. Rap 2 bolts are sti

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Best season:
July-Sep (avg for this region)


Oneonta Gorge - current status: Closed. Oneonta Creek was overrun by the Eagle Creek wildfire in Sept 2017 and has been closed. Please check on local closures before planning a trip to this area. When the area reopens, please use extreme caution when descending the creek. Between landslides, fallen trees, and loose rocks, this area may be very unstable and dangerous for years to come. The canyon may have changed dramatically. Do not rely on the beta below being accurate. This page will be updated when the canyon re-opens.

  • Please read the "Red Tape" section below before visiting this canyon. See also "Recommendations" for out-of-state visitors.

With just three rappels, this is a relatively easy but extremely scenic canyon. Oneonta Gorge is one of the most highly touristed areas in Columbia Gorge in the summer months. The Horsetail Falls trail and Oneonta Creek trail are also very popular. The canyon provides opportunities to rappel in the watercourse at moderate flow or alongside it in very high flow.


Park at the Oneonta Gorge trailhead. Then hike up the trail to Triple Falls, drop in where the trail crosses the stream. Tourists will be watching you from the vista point, so try to make a good impression.


R1: Triple Falls - 70ft. Anchor around a large log in the streambed. Choose which of the triple waterfalls to rappel based on flow. At moderate flow the fall DCR will be the most fun. At high flow the fall DCL may be the only way to rappel safely.

R2: 80ft free rappel. Bolts DCR at the edge of the waterfall. At high flow you might be better off anchoring around a tree at the edge and rappelling from there. There is a large cave behind the falls.

Jump: 25ft. A jump is possible at the pool where a pedestrian bridge crosses the creek. Or rappel from a fallen tree. This trail also provides a good exit point to avoid the last rappel.

R3: Oneonta Gorge - 130ft. (See Red Tape below.) Anchor around a logjam at the top of the waterfall and rappel down the face.

  • Do your best to avoid damaging the moss on the canyon walls. At moderate flows you may be able to rappel in the watercourse or on bare rock that displays no moss. At high flows you will be forced to rappel on the moss. In this case, please consider exiting the canyon at the bridge, especially if you are bringing clumsy beginners. If you opt to rappel on the moss, please do your best to tread slowly / gently to avoid killing the delicate flora and creating ugly black streaks on the canyon wall (aka a "vertical trail").
  • Safety must come first, so make sure there are no tourists in the fall zone (e.g. the bottom pool) while your team is rappelling. If you cannot clear the area, abort the descent and exit at the bridge.


You can exit at the bridge before the final rappel and hike down. If conditions allow, you may also rappel down the final waterfall and hike out the gorge to the road where you parked your car.

Red tape

Oneonta Gorge & Controversy

Be aware: descending the final drop on Oneonta Creek (aka Oneonta Gorge) is controversial. After several descents in the early 2000's, the Forest Service reacted negatively and removed two bolt stations (Triple Falls and Oneonta Gorge).

  • Oneonta Gorge has been designated a special botanical area and is home to several endemic plant species. These species live on the canyon walls and rim and may be subject to harm by canyoning activities.
  • Prior to the Eagle Creek Fire, Oneonta Gorge was one of the most popular areas in the Columbia River Gorge. It was visited, literally, by thousands of tourists every summer who hike up from the mouth of the gorge to swim in the plunge pool at the base of the final falls (R3). The bottom of the canyon is subject to high flows in winter and, as such, the hordes of tourists were not impacting the delicate vegetation. Biologists, however, are concerned about the impact to spawning salmon and other fish species.
  • Early canyoners realized it is nearly impossible to rappel the final drop without knocking down vegetation and a lot of damage was done during the initial descents. Afterwards, several canyoneers - both locals and visitors to the area - worked with the Forest Service and agreed that a voluntary closure was the best way to protect Oneonta's unique habitat and rare species.

There is concern among Portland locals that continued descents of Oneonta Gorge (e.g. the last falls) will negatively impact relations with local land managers. Things may be changing, but canyoning is still a relatively new sport in the Pacific NW. Unlike other parts of the country (ex: the Colorado Plateau), canyoning is not widely known or recognized here. Individuals climbing, rappelling, or slack-lining around such "show waterfalls" are far more likely to garner negative reactions from the public at large. Negative reactions can lead to complaints and more rules by the local authorities. There is concern that one possible outcome of degraded relations with the Forest Service may be an official closure of Oneonta to canyoneers. A worst possible outcome would be a complete ban on canyoning within the Columbia River Gorge. Please consider visiting alternate destinations instead. (See below.) Thanks!!

If you absolutely must run this canyon, it is highly recommended that one scrupulously follow a Leave-No-Trace ethic. Consider descending on weekdays, early season, and/or early mornings when numbers of non-canyoneer tourists will be low. Please be mindful of the delicate recovering environment and protect the safety of tourists you may encounter along the route or in the pool below. Please avoid leaving anchors behind as they can annoy waterfall photographers, irk land managers, and, worst of all, may encourage the inexperienced / unprepared to try to follow you.


Having second thoughts about rappelling Oneonta Gorge? For out of state visitors, there are many other excellent destinations in the general area that are: 1) non-controversial, and 2) offer a much better canyon experience than Oneonta. All of the following are far superior canyons. Oneonta is overrated on ropewiki (and other sites) as many out-of-state visitors are not aware of other options that are available.

Beta sites

Trip reports and media



Information provided by automated processes. KML map by (unknown). Main photo by (unknown). Authors are listed in chronological order.

In all habitats live animals and plants that deserve respect, please minimize impact on the environment and observe the local ethics. Canyoneering, Canyoning, Caving and other activities described in this site are inherently dangerous. Reliance on the information contained on this site is solely at your own risk. There is no warranty as to accuracy, timeliness or completeness of the information provided on this site. The site administrators and all the contributing authors expressly disclaim any and all liability for any loss or injury caused, in whole or in part, by its actions, omissions, or negligence in procuring, compiling or providing information through this site, including without limitation, liability with respect to any use of the information contained herein. If you notice any omission or mistakes, please contribute your knowledge (more information).