Historic Warren Falls and Diversion Catch

Last week I photographed Hole-In-The-Wall Falls, a man-made waterfall located near Starvation Creek in the Columbia River Gorge. After returning from last week’s trip, I learned there was more about this unique waterfall and its history. The history was one of the most unusual washout mitigation ideas that I ever heard of. I returned to the location this week to check it out a little bit more.

Warren Creek used to plunge down a basalt cliff. Warren Creek would flood occasionally during the rainy winter months, sometimes washing out the highway and the adjacent Union Pacific Railroad tracks. The Oregon Highway Division, as it was called then (Oregon Department of Transportation today) came up with an idea: divert the creek.

In 1938, work began on a diversion catch basin high up on the basalt cliff. The basin was designed with a debris trap made of railroad iron. The diversion channel also required blasting through the basalt cliff, which is the present-day “hole-in-the-wall.”

Today, Warren Creek spouts through the cliff wall. The “historic” Warren Creek Falls is nothing more than a mossy streak on the basalt. Every now and then heavy rain will cause Warren Creek to flow higher, overwhelming the diversion basin, and bring back the falls to life briefly.

To see the historic falls, I hiked up what is now called the overflow channel. It is a relative a short hike, about 200 feet.

As for the diversion catch, that required a hike up Starvation Ridge Trail and then down a steep embankment. I had to limit my time at the diversion as rain began to heavily fall.