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Silver Falls State Park
South Falls, Silver Falls State Park.jpg
South Falls
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Type Public, state
Location Marion County, Oregon
Nearest city Silverton
Operated by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

Silver Falls State Park is a state park in the U.S. state of Oregon, located near Silverton, about 20 miles (32 km) east-southeast of Salem. It is the largest state park in Oregon with an area of more than 9,000 acres (36 km2), and it includes more than 24 miles (39 km) of walking trails, 14 miles (23 km) of horse trails, and a 4-mile (6.4 km) bike path. Its 8.7-mile (14.0 km) Canyon Trail/Trail of Ten Falls runs along the banks of Silver Creek and by ten waterfalls, from which the park received its name. Four of the ten falls have an amphitheater-like surrounding that allows the trail to pass behind the flow of the falls. The Silver Falls State Park Concession Building Area and the Silver Creek Youth Camp-Silver Falls State Park are separately listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

The park's most visited waterfall is South Falls, a 177-foot (54 m) cascade. Remote Double Falls, however, is listed as the highest waterfall in the park, plunging 178 feet (54 m) in a small tributary side canyon deep within the Silver Creek Canyon.

In recent years, Silver Falls State Park has hosted star parties in partnership with the amateur astronomy organization in Salem, Oregon called Night Sky 45.


Silver Falls State Park Concession Building Area
Silver Falls Lodge west elevation - Oregon.jpg
Silver Falls Lodge
Nearest city Sublimity, Oregon
Built 1934
Architect J. Elwood Isted
NRHP reference No. 83002164
Silver Creek Youth Camp – Silver Falls State Park
Nearest city Sublimity, Oregon
Built 1936
Architect Keith R. Maguire, Jr.
Architectural style National Park Service rustic
NRHP reference No. 02000673
Added to NRHP June 20, 2002
Added to NRHP June 30, 1983

Silver Falls City formed in 1888 and was primarily a logging community with a few homesteaders, and the area was extensively logged. The small lumber town of Silver Falls City sat atop the South Falls, and as the land was cleared, a local entrepreneur sold admission to the Falls area, with attractions such as pushing cars over the falls and even hosting a stunt with a daredevil riding over in a canoe.

By 1900 a Silverton photographer, June D. Drake, began to campaign for park status, using his photographs of the falls to gain support. (Drake Falls was later named for him.) In 1926, however, an inspector for the National Park Service rejected the area for park status because of a proliferation of unattractive stumps after years of logging.

In 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that the Silver Falls area would be turned into a Recreational Demonstration Area. Private land that had been logged was purchased, and workers in the Civilian Conservation Corps were employed to develop park facilities, including the historic South Falls Lodge, completed in the late 1930s. It was used as a restaurant from 1946 until the late 1950s and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Silver Falls State Park Concession Building Area in 1983. The Silver Creek Youth Camp—Silver Falls State Park was also added to the National Register at this time.

In January 2008, during the 2008 supplemental legislative session, Fred Girod of the Oregon House of Representatives sought federal designation of the area as a national park via a house joint memorial to the United States Congress, but the bill died in committee.


The history of the canyon's formation begins about 26 million years ago to the Oligocene period, when most of Oregon was covered by ocean. After the waters of the ocean receded about 15 million years ago, the flood basalt flows of the Columbia River Basalt Group covered the sandstone that had been the ocean floor. The softer layers of sandstone beneath the basalt sheet eroded over time, creating pathways behind some of the waterfalls that Civilian Conservation Corps workers widened to make safe for public use. Another geologic feature are many tree "chimneys" or casts, formed when hot lava engulfed living trees and disintegrated them.


Within the park are many waterfalls, including ten along the Trail of Ten Falls (marked * in the table below) and five more below the confluence of the North and South forks of Silver Creek.

Distance on trail Waterfall Stream Height
0.0 South Falls* South Fork 177 feet (54 m)
0.8 Lower South Falls* South Fork 93 feet (28 m)
1.1 (Confluence of N. & S. Forks) Silver Creek (N/A)
2.1 Lower North Falls* North Fork 30 feet (9.1 m)
2.1 + 0.1 on side trail Double Falls* Hullt Creek 178 feet (54 m)
2.3 Drake Falls* North Fork 27 feet (8.2 m)
2.5 Middle North Falls* North Fork 106 feet (32 m)
2.7 + 0.5 on side trail Winter Falls* Winter Creek 134 feet (41 m)
3.0 Twin Falls* North Fork 31 feet (9.4 m)
3.9 North Falls* North Fork 136 feet (41 m)
4.6 Upper North Falls* North Fork 65 feet (20 m)
1.1 + ? below confluence Crag Falls Silver Creek 12 feet (3.7 m)
1.1 + ? below confluence Elbow Falls Silver Creek 20 feet (6.1 m)
1.1 + ? below confluence Canyon Falls Silver Creek 10 feet (3.0 m)
1.1 + ? below confluence Lisp Falls Silver Creek 5 feet (1.5 m)
1.1 + ? below confluence Sunlight Falls Silver Creek 5 feet (1.5 m)
(just before start of trail) Frenchie Falls Frenchie Creek 48 feet (15 m)
(3.5 above start of trail) Trickle Falls Tributary of S. Fork  ?

Friends of Silver Falls

Volunteers inspired by the beauty and history of Silver Falls have been active there since establishment of the park in 1933. In 1986, the citizens and the park staff envisioned a mission and established the Friends of Silver Falls State Park, Inc. That mission is "to further the educational and interpretive opportunities available to park visitors; to promote the preservation, protection and enhancement of the historical, natural, and recreational resources within the park; and to assist in the implementing park improvements and educational programs compatible with the nature of Silver Falls State Park."

As a result, this private and public partnership has created a more meaningful park experience for the nearly one million annual visitors to the park, far beyond what state park funding alone can provide.

Since 1992, volunteers of the Friends of Silver Falls State Park have operated the Nature Store in historic South Falls Lodge. This store offers a variety of books, clothing and souvenirs in keeping with the park's nature theme. The organization has also been responsible for much of the interpretive signage along the Trail of Ten Falls.

Other goals of the Friends include compiling oral histories from those who have memories of the park region, keeping alive the history of Silver Falls City, recognizing the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and 1940s, maintaining the park's historic district, and continuing to place interpretive signs throughout the park's more than 9,000 acres (36 km2).

In culture

The park has been used as a filming location in several movies. The 1981 horror film Just Before Dawn was shot entirely on location in the park; it also served as a filming location for William Friedkin's thriller The Hunted (2003), and the blockbuster film Twilight (2008).

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