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A hidden 'family' of waterfalls in Opal Creek Wilderness

06.14.16

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A hidden 'family' of waterfalls in Opal Creek Wilderness

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  • - A hidden 'family' of waterfalls in Opal Creek Wilderness
  • - A hidden 'family' of waterfalls in Opal Creek Wilderness
  • - A hidden 'family' of waterfalls in Opal Creek Wilderness
  • - A hidden 'family' of waterfalls in Opal Creek Wilderness
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FIVE DECADES AFTER MAYNARD DRAWSON DISCOVERED A SERIES OF WATERFALLS ON HENLINE CREEK, THE AREA REMAINS A MYSTERY

There is no trail to Family Falls, and it can't be found on official maps.

Clues about the location are whispered between friends, a secret known only to those willing to bushwhack into a canyon of high cliffs and thick forest deep in the Opal Creek Wilderness.

The journey is not easy.

A trip requires scrambling up and down steep ridges, crossing a creek multiple times and crawling head-first through a cave.

But the reward arrives with the discovery of one beautiful waterfall after the next, the family of seven waterfalls living together in a setting so primeval you’d swear you were the first person to lay eyes upon it.

But, of course, you’d be wrong.

Almost five decades ago this spring, a Salem barber named Maynard Drawson became the first person to document these waterfalls on upper Henline Creek in the Little North Santiam canyon east of Salem.

A World War II veteran, author, father of seven children and lifelong Salem resident, Drawson was best-known for exploring places overlooked by the masses. He wrote about his experiences in a series of books, “Treasures of the Oregon Country.”

“His name is Maynard Drawson and his hobby is Oregon — literally,” reads a story published in the Medford Mail Tribune on Dec. 26, 1977. “Oregon’s hills and valleys and histories and old towns and forest and places names intrigue him, and he delights in sharing his findings with others.”

Drawson’s discovery of the waterfalls set in motion a small-scale drama over the question of who gets to name special landmarks.

For more on the history and story of these waterfalls, see the full article originally published in the Statesman Journal

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