Oregon’s Nehalem River Valley Autumn Foliage Travel Down A Country Road Grant’s Getaways: This is ELSIE, Oregon. When it comes to life, I am a firm believer that the path is just as important as the final destination. It’s a wise saying, and I try to keep it in mind anytime I’m out exploring Oregon’s beautiful wilderness.
This week, the 90-minute trip from Portland to your destination via a coastal byway that features jumping salmon and magnificent fall colors will be an experience you’ll never forget.
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Oregon’s Nehalem River Valley Autumn Foliage Travel Down A Country Road Grant’s Getaways
While I’m sure the road that runs next to the Lower Nehalem River has a designated route number, I’ve been unable to locate it. Maybe that’s why I’m so in love with this roundabout route that adds a little extra time to my journeys.
It flies by softly rounded slopes whose trees display what calendars have informed us for about a month: the seasons are changing, and it does so over the course of approximately 30 miles starting at a small whistle-stop settlement called “Elsie” (located on State Highway 26).
Some of the tributaries of the Nehalem River start as tiny, spring-fed trickles across spongy moss, but by the time salmon have made their arduous journey back from the salty sea to their birth habitat in time to breed, they have grown to be enormous creeks.
Above the Nehalem Falls Campground in Oregon’s Department of Forestry, local photographer Don Best said, “It is so amazing, you simply don’t want to go, can’t stop watching them.” Even though the campground is closed for the season, you may still access the route that leads to the waterfalls.
Nehalem Falls is a 30-yard succession of swirling waterfalls that force fish to leap in groups or perish. Each fall, Best visits the place in hopes of photographing the salmon migration.
The seasoned nature photographer remarked, “I’ll stay here for hours trying to get that ‘oooh-ahh’ shot.” They can appear from anywhere, as they can both high and low jump. You also can’t always get them in the ideal position because they’re only in the air for half a second. It’s not uncommon for underwater photographs to turn out well, but sending an object soaring through the air is a whole other ballgame. That’s great fun, thanks!
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The falls provide a place for the water to perform acrobatics over hidden rocks, while other sections of the river display the river’s distinctive rhythm, both of which nourish the local flora and fauna.
Aside from the opportunity to pull off the road and enjoy the scenery at Henry Rierson Spruce Run Campground, which is located right on the Nehalem River, this drive is also a great place to fish. In addition to being a great place to pause, stretch your legs, and take a deep breath, a stop by the river is also equipped with plenty of picnic tables.
The enormous leaf maple leaves, already mottled brown or gray, sometimes fall slowly, gliding by the path, creating a beautiful, wonderful display along this backroad that I cherish the most.
Sometimes a wind will whip up a snowstorm, and the leaves will fall and rest on peaceful ponds where barely a ripple records the moment, or the massive leaves will collect and grow in piles along the road, offering a “drive through” too tempting to pass up.
To get the most out of your time, get out of here as soon as possible and then take it easy on one of the great unnumbered side roads in the area.
The Oregon Fall Foliage Hotline (open from September to November) provides updates on the state of the fall foliage each week.
It’s important that you tune in to the weekly half-hour show. This program may be seen on KGW every Saturday and Sunday at 4 pm.
If you’re looking for something different to do in Oregon, you can follow my travels through This storytelling show in which I share behind-the-scenes anecdotes from my four decades of travel and TV reporting.