Thumbnail History of Silver Falls State Park
Silver Falls State Park opened July 23, 1933. But its history began long before.
The Kalapuya and Molalla, whose ancestors came to the Willamette Valley about 14,000 years ago, were the native people in the Silver Falls area when whites arrived as early as 1812. Natives numbered about 15,000 in the Willamette Valley prior to white settlement, but populations began to decline due to European diseases against which natives lacked immunity. By the early 1840s, their population dropped to about 600 and whites were coming in large numbers. By 1850 hundreds of whites lived in and around the Silver Falls Area before completely displacing all the natives in western Oregon when they were relocated to reservations in 1854.
The first land homesteaded in Silver Falls was in 1883 next to South Falls. The next homestead land today takes in the South Falls Lodge, nearby buildings, and the park’s main parking lot. On this same land, the town of Silver Falls City was platted in 1888. Never more than several dozen families at a time resided in it. Still, it was the de facto capital of Silver Falls, an area with a peak of more than 200 residents, and it lasted for over 40 years. In its time, it had three general stores, an eight-room hotel, church, dancehall, tavern, granary, blacksmith shop, houses with barns and other outbuildings, and several sawmills. A one room school was located a mile and a half south.
The Great Depression struck in 1929, and timber, Oregon’s most important industry, tanked. The whole state, and Silver Falls along with it, was devastated. U.S. government programs for mitigating the effects of the depression also made the park the great park it is today. One program, the Civilian Conservation Corps, put young unemployed men to work constructing buildings, trails, bridges, retaining walls, and other park infrastructure - most of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. Through the Silver Falls Recreational Demonstration Area - a federal land acquisition, development, and transfer program - more than 5,000 acres were added to the park by 1948.
Two people stand out in the history of the park. June Drake, a Silverton photographer, conducted a long, unrelenting campaign to have the waterfalls and their surrounding area enclosed in a park. Samuel H. Boardman, the first superintendent of Oregon state parks, took a special interest in Silver Falls while expanding and developing the state’s park system. Drake earned the honorary title of the Father of Silver Falls State Park and Boardman the title of the Father of Oregon State Parks.
Today, park staff, with support from volunteers, maintains a park of over 9,000 acres that annually attracts well over a million visitors.
For more information please visit the Friends of Silver Falls website: http://www.friendsofsilverfalls.net/
Annual overnight attendance: 72,184
Annual dayuse attendance: 892,192
Silver Falls State Park FAQ
Trail of Ten Falls: The Trail of Ten Falls is a designated National Recreation Trail, and lures photographers, hikers and waterfall enthusiasts alike. Listed as a moderate hike with 800 feet elevation variation, sturdy shoes and a camera are encouraged. Each of the three trailheads leading into the canyon starts atop of an over one hundred foot waterfall. The decent into the pristine canyon begins within the canopy of towering Douglas Firs, as it meanders down to the undergrowth of ferns into the heart of the canyon, meeting up with the winding creek. Whether you are up for the full nine mile trek or a shortened journey, the Canyon trail is and enjoyable and beautiful hike as you as explore from one falls to the next.
Pets and bycicles are not allowed on the canyon section of this trail.
There are four water falls that you are able to walk behind. South Falls is the famous one, though Lower South, North and Middle North all have an amphitheater that provides enough room for a trail. The water of Silver Creek flows over a thick basalt lava flow that is resting on softer, older rock. As the water loses elevation this softer layer beneath erodes and created a natural pathway.
As you enter South Falls Day Use Area, please pay your day use fee then proceed to Main restroom. If you arrive at North Falls first, there is a vault toilet in the parking lot.
There are no restrooms available on any of the trails in Silver Falls. Please use the restrooms provided at these parking lots.
Our volunteer coordinator is Ann Muareen Scully. Her direct line is 503.873.8681 ex39.
We would love to have you on board!
Our main office phone number is 503.873.8681 ex24. We are open Monday- Friday 8:00am to 4:30pm. Though we can’t make reservations on this line, we can assist with most questions involving flora & fauna, directions, camping, trails and general frequently asked questions.
Gates at South Falls Day Use will be locked before and after the following times:
November- January: 8:00am- 5:00pm
October & February: 8:00am- 6:00pm
March: 8:00am- 7:00pm
September & April: 8:00am 8:00pm
May- August: 8:00am-9:00pm
Silver Falls State Park is a remote area. Cell phone coverage is limited. At&t customers will have better reception, though in case of emergency all cell phones will be able to access 911.
There is no public internet connection at this time.
The Friends of Silver Falls has their own website & blog of events. Feel free to check them both out! http://www.friendsofsilverfalls.net/
All facilities within Silver Falls can be reserved though Reservations Northwest. To reserve call 1-800-452-5687 or go online at www.oregonstateparks.org. You are able to reserve nine months in advance up to 72 hours prior to check in. To contact our staff in the Registration Booth please call 503-873-8681 ex 31.
Yes, our campground hosts are more than happy to help with this. Ice is $3.00 a bag and firewood is $6.00 a bundle. Specific hours of sales are posted in the campground.
All facilities within Silver Falls can be reserved though Reservations Northwest. To reserve call 1-800-452-5687 or go online at www.oregonstateparks.org. You are able to reserve nine months in advance up to 72 hours prior to check in. To contact our Registration Booth staff please call 503-873-8681 ex 31.
Yes! For those less inclined to camp, please check out our Confence Center.
Also located in Silver Falls State Park, Silver Falls Conference Center is the perfect retreat center to refresh, reflect, and recharge while surrounded by nature. This complex of buildings and open spaces can host weddings, conferences, church and youth group meetings, motivational workshops, reunions,or corporate trainings and brainstorming sessions. Located in aptly-named Sublimity,Oregon, Silver Falls Conference Center is the best of both worlds: close enough to the capital seat of Salem, the Portland International Airport, and Interstate 5 to make it readily accessible, yet secluded enough to allow for focused discussions, intimate ceremonies, and outdoor recreation. Guests can enjoy more than twenty-five miles of lush hiking and jogging trails, glimpses of wildlife, and the thrill of passing behind cascading waterfalls of mountain-fed streams.
For pricing and general questions please follow the link to the Confrence Center's website. http://www.silverfallsconference.com/
Silver Falls State Park welcomes visitors and their pets to most areas of the park. However; for the safety of you and other hikers, pets are not allowed on the Trail of Ten Falls/Canyon Trail or on the connecting trails of Winter Trail and Maple Ridge Trail.
Throughout other areas of the park pets are required to be on a leash and of no more than six feet in length. A pet exercise/off leash area is located in South Falls Day Use Area for pets to run while under voice control.
For the equestrian users, dog owners, mountain bikers and outdoor enthusiasts, more than 25 miles of multi-use backcountry trails spread over the 9,000 acres offer a great escape. Surrounded by Douglas-fir, western hemlock, Oregon grape, salal, sword fern and the remnants of old growth forest, the trails of Rackett Ridge, Perimeter and Buck Mountain loop provide remarkable scenery with a variety of plant and animal life. Pacific black-tail deer, black bear, coyotes and cougars thrive in the lush, temperate rainforest and can be seen within these remote park areas.
If you have any questions about which trails will accommodate pets, please check with park staff.
Silver Falls is home to many species of wildlife, including black bear and cougars. If you come across an animal, do not approach it. You can learn more about what to do if you encounter bears and cougars by picking up a pamphlet from any day use booth. Please report any sighting to the first available park ranger.
All fishing at Silver Falls State Park is catch and release only, barbless hook. All parties must be licensed through Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and are encouraged to stay on trail. For specific fishing regulations, please research http://www.dfw.state.or.us/
We currently do not have a horse concessionaire. You must bring your own horse if you would like to ride our trails.
The South Falls Day Use Area has spacious lawns, BBQ stands, picnic shelters or tables, playground, swimming area, horse shoe pits, doggie off leash area, and charming creek Silver Falls is famous for. Ever since the opening day in 1933; visitors have been using these grounds for potlucks, family reunions and weddings, all within a short walk to view the famous 177 foot South Falls.
Also located within South Falls Day Use is the Historic South Falls lodge; on rainy or snowy days there will be a fire to cozy next to and a café for warm food & snacks (ice cream too!) Friendly volunteers welcome questions about park history, flora, fauna and are happy to recommend specific trails. The nearby Friends of Silver Falls Nature Store has memorabilia and local artisan crafts.
The day-use fee for Silver Falls is $5. This fee may be purchased at many of our trail heads and at all booths. Your campground pass doubles as a day use permit.
While each payment booth operates differently, no machine will give change. Please come with exact change. A visa/master card reader is available at South Falls Day Use.
Annual and biannual passes are available for purchase at the park office, the registration booth, the Friends of Silver Falls Nature Store (located in the Historic Silver Falls District), and the day-use entry booth during the summer season.
North West Forest Service, National Park & Golden Eagle are not a valid permit for State Parks. Only passes issued by Oregon Parks & Recreational Department are validated as a day use passes Please purchase a $5.00 day use pass.
Silver Falls Historic lodge is open every day of the year! Times for café operation do vary throughout the year please see the following:
November-March: Open Friday- Monday 11:00am- 3:00pm.
Spring Break: Everyday 11:00am- 4:00pm
April: Open Thursday- Monday 11:00am- 4:00pm
May: Everyday 10:00am- 5:00pm
June- August: Sunday- Friday 10:00am- 6:00pm Saturday till 7:00
September: Everyday 10:00am- 5:00pm
October: Everyday 11:00am- 5:00pm
Standard American cuisine, coffee & hot chocolate, ice-cream too!
For specific menu items and group accommodations please call 503.873.8875.
Yes! Our gift shop is run by our wonderful volunteers!
The Friends of Silver Falls gift shop hours are as follows:
November- February: 11:00am- 4:00pm
March- May: 10:00am- 5:00pm
June- August: 10:00am- 6:00pm
September- October: 10:00am- 5:00pm
For specific questions about the Friends of Silver Falls Nature Store please call 503.873.3495
Our new Interpretive Ranger Ian Fawley would be glad to talk to you about this possibility. Space is limited so please make these arraignments far in advance. His direct line is 503.874.0201.