Cascade Falls, Moran State Park, Orcas Island, Washington

20 Mar

I mentioned last week that there would be an upcoming post about the waterfalls on Orcas Island, Washington. Well, today’s the day! When we were out in Washington over the Christmas holidays, we visited Moran State Park several times. While the top of Mt. Constitution ( is the best view in the islands, Cascade Falls, lower down on the mountain, is surely another must-see part of the park.

The top of the waterfall...just as it spills over in its aptly-named cascade.

Cascade Falls. They're not huge...but they're lovely!!

I remember coming here as a child and we’d make little dams in the shallows of the stream that eventually became the falls. We’d bring a picnic and spend the whole day, and we wouldn’t even get too sunburned, because the forest is so deep.

The falls themselves were (who am I kidding – ARE) so fun to climb down to. We’d climb on the rocks – and likely fall in – and we’d walk across the fallen-tree-truck bridge (that is still there today) to the other side. Maiden Hair Fern clung to the water-sprayed rocks, so delicate and lacey; I can’t see it today without thinking of the falls on Orcas.

Maiden Hair Fern. So lovely! (Photo not my own.)

There's Maiden Hair Fern there on the rocks - though, granted, it's looking a little yellow in the winter sunlight.

A little more Maiden Hair Fern...

The stream leading to the falls.

The natural bridge below the falls. How many years has this been there? As many as I can at least 42!

Yes, it's safe. Just like it was when I was a kid.

If we were lucky we’d find what we called “Indian Pipes”, too – a parasitic wild flower that looks like a fungus because it contains no chlorophyl, growing at the base of towering pines. This flower, also known as the “corpse plant” only grows in nutrient rich soil…all I knew then was that it made any trip to the falls extra special if we found it growing along the hiking trails.

Indian Pipes. (Photo not my own.)

There are many hikes of varying degrees of difficulty that hikers or walkers or climbers can take at the park. Along many of the paths are wooden foot bridges – all of which make marvelous places to play “The Three Billy Goat’s Gruff”. My dad would mysteriously disappear as we walked and suddenly, when we came to a bridge, a deep voice (sounding nothing like my dad’s) would say, “Who’s that tripping over my bridge?” And I’d cry, “Oh, please, Mr. Troll. Don’t eat me! My sister is coming along and she’s much bigger and juicier than I am!” And then, of course, Dad would appear from beneath the bridge, his camera around his neck, and we’d all laugh and laugh. It never got old.

The troll bridge - one of them, anyway. Ah, the memories!!

I took swimming lessons at the park. Never did learn to swim.

The green, green, greenness everywhere! I love it. The moss, and the shade, and the ferns. I miss that on the prairie…

I know this isn't a great photo seeing as it's slightly unfocused...but this is where I learned about nurse logs - trees growing out of a fallen tree's trunk. So cool.


16 Responses to “Cascade Falls, Moran State Park, Orcas Island, Washington”

  1. Minnesota Prairie Roots March 20, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    This is beautiful, just beautiful.

    I’m wondering, does the corpse plant stink, like a corpse? Have you heard of the corpse flower, a gigantic plant that blooms only every few years? I saw one for the first and only time in July of 2010 blooming at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. And, yes, it smells like its name.

    Your story about the troll under the bridge reminds me of when, as children, we drove over those old highway bridges, you know with the span of beams overhead, we called those troll bridges. We would knock on the inside roof of the car as we drove over these bridges, presumably to scare away the trolls.

    Have you seen the waterfall at Alexander Ramsey Park in Redwood Falls? It’s lovely. The park is the biggest municipal park in Minnesota.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 20, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

      Thank you, Audrey. It’s such an amazingly verdant place – I love that!

      No, the flowers to not stink – just called that because of their colorless state. They’re rather hard to find now, I think. Last time I saw one was on our honeymoon, 15.5 years ago. (Not that I’m there to look too often!)

      I’ve never seen the Corpse flower – it must be amazing! I’ve certainly heard of it. that’s cool you got to see it!

      I’ve not seen those falls – i should go. I love waterfalls! I’ll post about the Sioux Falls falls soon over on the other blog!!!

  2. Laurie (Morrill) French March 20, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    WOW~!! That flooded back a batch of memories for me!! That natural log bridge has been there at least 56 years that I can attest to. I grew up on Orcas too and had never heard of or seen Indian Pipes. Fasinating. Great pictures Gretchen. Thanks so very much for sharing. I also read your blog about Mt. Constitution. I still have my treasured picture of the tower, that I got from your Dad many, many years ago. He matted it and framed it. That tower holds special memories because I, as a kid went to the KVOS TV Station at the top of the mountain with my Dad lots of times. I had the run of the mountain and had a blast playing in the tower after everybody else left. I regret that I didn’t take pictures back then.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 20, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

      That’s awesome that you remember the bridge from that long ago! How fun! It’s great that you still have that photo! I hope it’s not too faded now. How fun that you had the run of the place as a kid! I wish I’d taken more pictures inside – not sure why I didn’t. I think I was enjoying so much having my kids be there and see it all that I forgot! In fact, even the tower picture on that blog post wasn’t mine – I forgot to take a picture of it, too!!

  3. cravesadventure March 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Beautiful pics – thanks for sharing!

  4. hotlyspiced March 21, 2012 at 5:08 am #

    What a beautiful part of the world. It looks so peaceful and serene. The images are gorgeous xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 21, 2012 at 6:58 am #

      Thanks, Charlie! It is serene, yes. It’s “Old Growth Forest”, as they call it around there, meaning that it’s never been logged off/chopped down – so the trees are very old and untouched – Logging is such a huge industry in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., that it’s a HUGE political issue – and, of course, a huge bonus if you can find land that is untouched to enjoy and love!

  5. Just A Smidgen March 22, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

    What a lovely childhood you’ve had and how wonderful to pass this on to your children! Cherished memories crossing the generations.. then they will take their children.. btw, I think those Corpus plants are sooo neat… I’ve never seen anything like it!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 23, 2012 at 7:06 am #

      Yes, it was rather amazing. I am always so glad when we are able to get the kids out there…even if it doesn’t seem often enough! Yes, those are very cool plants – very sensitive to environment, I think.

  6. whatimeant2say March 23, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

    I really enjoy your virtual tours! Great pictures and awesome narrations!

  7. Zen and Genki May 8, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    What a journey! Thanks for bringing us all along to share!

  8. quirkywritingcorner August 1, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

    Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner.

  9. quirkywritingcorner August 1, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    Thank you for the follow. I loved these photos and am returning the favor. ~ Connie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: