By Shawn “Shaggy” Bolker
Hole in the Wall Falls is perhaps the most unique waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge. Here, Warren Creek plunges forcefully out of a strikingly symmetrical hole bored into a soaring basaltic formation. Instead of cascading over the top the cliff, Warren Creek funnels straight through it. Despite its compelling appearance, this “hole in the wall” is not a natural occurrence. Hole in the Wall Falls was constructed by humans in 1938 to prevent Warren Creek from flooding the original Columbia River Highway. This highway ran tantalizingly close to Warren Falls (the naturally occurring waterfall on Warren Creek) and often washed out during periods of high water. Instead of rerouting the highway or raising the bridge over Warren Creek, road planners simply moved the waterfall. A tunnel was blasted into an adjacent cliff and the creek was diverted through it. If one looks closely, they can see a wooden plank stuck onto the cliff above the tunnel opening, signaling human interference.
To access this puzzling and unique waterfall, begin hiking from the well-marked Starvation Creek Trailhead in Starvation Creek State Park. Once at the trailhead, be sure to take a short detour to view Starvation Creek Falls, the park’s main attraction. Starvation Creek Falls is miami*: a towering, multi-tiered behemoth of a waterfall. After being properly awed by Starvation Creek Falls, return to the parking area and begin hiking west along the old Columbia River Highway, now a paved bike path. This path offers sweeping views of the Columbia River and passes by the small, yet charming, Cabin Creek Falls before arriving at Hole in the Wall Falls in 0.7 miles. From its base, Hole in the Wall Falls appears to be a shaggy*, two tiered natural waterfall, cascading into a small, azure pool. However, if one continues a short distance past the waterfall on the Starvation Ridge Trail, the “hole in the wall” becomes readily apparent.
One can access the original Warren Falls by scrambling up a dry streambed that is encountered roughly one-hundred yards before Hole in the Wall Falls. On brink of this dry falls, one can see the rattling wooden boards that keep Warren Creek from taking its natural path. Despite all this human intervention, Warren Falls still flows during times of unusually high water. After extended periods of heavy rain, Warren Creek overflows into its old channel and Warren Falls is reborn — if only for a short time.
*Shaggy vernacular: “miami” means amazing, and “shaggy” means cool.