The Star of the Show
As Oregon’s most celebrated waterfall, Multnomah Falls attracts nearly two million visitors from around the world every year. The adjacent Multnomah Falls Lodge adds architectural and historic interest to the site. An extensive hiking trail system in the area provides excellent recreational opportunities and a chance to find solitude in hidden fern-covered canyons away from the noise of Interstate 84.
Formed by the cataclysmic Missoula Floods beginning 15,000 years ago and fed mainly by underground springs, Multnomah Falls drops 635 feet in two major tiers down basalt cliffs. It ranks as the tallest waterfall in Oregon and is one of the most visited tourism sites in the state.
Much of the development around the falls began after Portland lumber baron Simon Benson deeded 300 acres of land around the falls to the City of Portland for a park. He also funded the 1914 construction of the graceful 45-foot Benson Bridge, a footbridge that crosses the falls over 100 feet above the lower pool.
In 1925, the city commissioned accomplished Portland architect, A. E. Doyle, to design Multnomah Falls Lodge near the base of the falls. Doyle built the lodge for $40,000 in the Cascadian style using timber and every type of rock found in the Gorge. Originally the lodge had dormitories and four rooms for overnight stays but the lodging is now a distant memory. Several significant remodels and additions have occurred over the decades. The building now offers tourists a restaurant, interpretive center, gift shop, restrooms and other services.
The U.S. Forest Service gained final ownership of the site and lodge in 1943 and currently contracts for visitor services.
Multnomah Falls Lodge in 2010. (Oregon State Archives, Scenic Image No. DSC37-23)
Multnomah Falls and Multnomah Falls Lodge in the late 1920s.
(Oregon State Archives, Private Donation Postcards)