As fate would have it, we moved to Oregon in the driest, hottest, year in recent history. People from the Midwest don’t handle heat well at all, and we started to panic about three weeks into temperatures above 90 degrees. Fortunately, friends of ours suggested we head out to Lake Creek Falls near the town of Triangle Lake—and we weren’t alone in this idea.
To begin, Triangle Lake is located near a lake by the same name. Take route 36 just south of Junction City; you are looking for a small parking lot just past Eagle Cove Camp. The lake feeds into Lake Creek and the subsequent falls.
CAUTION: If you arrive later in the day, chances are the parking lot will be completely full. In researching this adventure, I read a warning against parking on the side of the road and wish we had paid better attention. In returning to our van at the end of the day we found parking ticket plastered to our windshield.
Here’s the takeaway from the whole, drawn out, parking fiasco: the cars in the photo below did not receive a citation because their tires are not touching the pavement. If you park in an area where your vehicle is not completely pulled off onto the gravel shoulder, park at your own risk. We received the maximum fine available in the state of Oregon ($110 for private vehicles and $500 for commercial vehicles). This law applies everywhere, but Lake Creek Falls has a bit of a reputation.
If you need to use the restroom, visit the outhouse in the main parking lot. You’ll then walk along this pathway for approximately 0.2 miles before descending down a moderately steep path/stairway to the boulder field that is the falls.
Lake Creek Falls has two different man-made fish ladder structures: a Denil baffle and a concrete weir. “Weirs, or small dams, area made of concrete or heavy logs. They make the river more accessible during low flows and create pools where fish can rest on their journey upstream. Denils are fish ways [that] use a series of closely set baffles that break up the swift current and allow shorter, steeper ladders.” (this text copied from the informational sign at the end of the trail). Here’s an example of a concrete weir. You can see the Denil baffle at the base of the larger, steeper falls.
At this point, I’d like to suggest packing the following items: life jackets, sandals or water shoes, and inner tubes or a protective mat for the “rock slides” portion of your adventure. Note the deep pool to the base of the larger falls (and the Denil baffle in the lower edge of the photo below).
After observing several grown men jump into the pool from natural platforms high on the (scary) slippery cliff walls, I let my daughter jump into the water from a lower height. Note she is wearing a life jacket, as I don’t think any of us knew the exact depth of the waters. Despite the heat, the water was refreshingly cold (you will be glad to have sandals or water shoes when climbing out on the slippery boulders jutting up from the rocky edge closest to the main trail).
Perhaps the most fun experience is the natural rock slide/water slide that slopes gently down towards a shallow pool. Most people wear protective clothing or sit on an inner tube or protective mat while sliding down the falls, as “road rash” is probable here. If you do not want to bump off the boulder like the man in this photo, project your body slightly to the left (you’ll start out slower, but your chiropractor bill will be less).
The water at the bottom (during our visit) was maybe three-feet-deep, but I still had the kids keep their life jackets on. Some people were jumping off the giant log (shown above), but I held firm in my role of “totally lame” mom and denied everyone this fun experience.
At the end of the day, we were cool and had a blast, parking ticket at all.
For more information on this experience read this story on Eugene Outdoors. com: http://www.eugeneoutdoors.com/slide-rock-triangle-lake/ and this one on The Outbound.com: https://www.theoutbound.com/oregon/chillin/explore-the-triangle-lake-rock-slides-and-lake-creek-falls