Shepperd’s Dell is one such “hidden gem”. Tucked into a steep, narrow crevasse right off the historic Columbia River Highway, most motorists wouldn’t even realize there was a waterfall here if not for the bridge spanning Young’s Creek.
The waterfall and surrounding tract of land originally belonged to a dairy farmer by the name of George Shepperd. As there was no church located near their home, the Shepperd family used the dell for their Sunday morning worship services. A natural cathedral. He donated the site to the City of Portland in 1915 as a memorial to his wife.
The total height of the waterfall at Shepperd’s Dell is well over 200 feet. But because of overhanging vegetation and the twisted shape of the crevasse, only about 100 feet are clearly visible from the trail. Still, the delicate two-tiered waterfall is well worth a visit.
A narrow set of concrete steps located at the east end of the bridge provides access to a trail that leads to the falls. An easy walk from the highway–only about 0.2 mile. The entire length of the trail was cut from the cliff and is still protected by a moss-grown stone railing built by the same masons who, in the early 1900’s, were working on the guardrails for the highway.
Directions: Drive east from Portland on I-84 to Exit 28 (Bridal Veil exit). Turn right on the historic Columbia River Highway and drive approximately 0.5 mile to the trailhead. There is a small turnout alongside the highway (right near the bridge) with space for a couple of cars. Or for those not afraid to stretch their legs a little, additional parking can be found at nearby Larourell Falls. See map.