Oneonta Gorge is a spectacular moss, lichen and fern clad slot canyon located on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge. With cliff walls towering some 150 feet to the forest above, the lower gorge has been cut by Oneonta Creek through layers of basalt flows dating back 25 million years ago to the Miocene epoch. The Lower Gorge also has the distinction of being a United States Forest Service designated biological reserve area which is home to several rare species of mosses, ferns, lichens, and hepatics (Liverwarts) that are found nowhere else on earth, but within the Columbia River Gorge.
Hidden .3 miles at the end of the slot-canyon is the beautiful Oneonta Falls, a 60 foot plunge type waterfall which has carved itself into a sweeping notch of moss covered basalt. There is no trail through the canyon so be prepared to get wet as its stream walking and chest-deep wading as you hike up the canyon.
It is important to mention that there is a large and especially dangerous log-jam at the mouth of the canyon that led to the death of a young man in 2011. Exercise extreme caution when crossing the log-jam, beware of high-water conditions, and move slowly across the logs which are slick with moisture and algae. Also be aware of the very real danger of rockfall in the lower gorge. In the 1990’s, I found myself wading up the creek during a hot and busy Labor Day weekend, when two TV sized boulders came smashing down not more than ten feet away. I have also read of similar accounts of rockfall happening within Oneonta’s Lower Gorge; so know your limits, be alert and above all-else, enjoy this emerald clad crown jewel of our magnificent Columbia River Gorge.