Proxy Falls – McKenzie Bridge, Oregon - Atlas Obscura

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Proxy Falls

This frequently-photographed waterfall takes only a short hike to visit. 

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Frequently featured in calendars, postcards, and other waterfall-oriented media, the graceful beauty and easy accessibility of Proxy Falls have made it a popular sightseeing destination in central Oregon.

The waterfall formed where the spring-fed Proxy Creek tumbles over the edge of a glacier-cut cliff made of columnar basalt. The effects of erosion on the characteristically geometrical basalt created the stair-step formations and symmetrical mounding that splits the creek into two glittering curtains over the 226-foot drop amidst thick carpets of moss. At the bottom, the water pools but does not flow on via any outlet, draining instead into the ground via the porous lava rock deposited there over millennia by the nearby volcanoes known as the Three Sisters.

There are actually two sections of Proxy Falls: Upper Proxy Falls and Lower Proxy Falls. The lower waterfall is the famous one, being far more dramatic and picturesque than the 126-foot gradual cascades that comprise the upper waterfall.

Both falls can easily be reached via a hike of less than a mile on Proxy Falls Trail, which takes visitors on a walk through coniferous forests and open lava fields before arriving at the falls. The trail is open year-round, but is subject to occasional inaccessibility in the winter due to snow (unless, of course, you brought your skis or snowshoes).

Know Before You Go

This hike (and many others in the area) was closed August 2021 due to the Knoll Wildfire. Please keep note on the status of Willamette National Forest before you visit.

Presented in partnership with Lincoln. Explore more in our series, In Search of Sanctuary, an exploration of unique and wondrous places to experience the power of sanctuary.

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