The popular natural site of Tamolitch Falls or the 'Blue Pool' in Willamette National Forest draws a popular crowd everyday but one simple solution can fix all of this for you!
First Up: What is Tamolitch Falls?
Tamolitch Falls is a waterfall and underground spring-fed natural pool in the Willamette National Forest of Oregon.
A lava flow coming from Belknap Crater 1,600 years ago covered a section of the Mackenzie River. The Blue Pool at Tamolitch Falls is where the river resurfaces and is fed year round from the underground portion of the Mackenzie River.
The lava covered section is 3 miles long and begins at Carmen Reservoir.
Is there actually a waterfall at Tamolitch Falls?
Yes, well more correctly, sometimes during the year you can see the falls. The falls are seasonal and develop during winter and spring months when the Mackenzie River floods and the river flows over the covered portion.
The waterfall flows over the rocks on the north end of the pool through the opening which can be observed and traversed to get to the base of the pool.
The photo below is taken from the location where the flooded river enters the Blue Pool.
People say this is some of the coldest water they've ever experienced, how cold is it?
The average temperature of the Tamolitch Blue Pool is 37-degrees Fahrenheit. That is cold cold - it's cold enough to make you hypothermic in under 10 minutes.
I recommend a refreshing swim and I don't have any doubt that you'll be hopping in to come right out.
Is swimming actually legal here?
The US Forest Service says it's not against the rules to go for a swim but they do remind people to exercise caution while here.
The temperature is cold and there are steep rocky cliffs surrounding the pool increasing risk of something to go wrong. Be careful but do enjoy a good swim or cliff jump. The water is said to be over 30 feet deep in places!
What's the hike in like and how far?
The hike in is relatively easy. The main trail to access the pools follows the Mackenzie River upstream and meanders through beautiful Oregon forest of old trees and moss covered logs.
Certain sections are rocky from the old lava flows in which closed toe shoes are recommended. Don't be caught in the backcountry unprepared. You can get some good reminders of my recommended Day Hiking Essentials here!
The hike to the Tamolitch Blue Pool is 2.25 miles making the round trip close to 5 miles after the extra distance exploring the pools, a perfect distance in my mind.
Tamolitch Blue Pool via Mackenzie River Trail:
Distance: 3.6 Miles (*plan on closer to 4.5)
Type: Out & Back
Ascent: 285 feet
How to get to the Blue Pool?
Tamolitch Falls is located two and a half hours from Portland, Oregon and a little over an hour from Bend, Oregon in the Willamette National Forest. The parking lot is about a half mile off route 126.
Okay, finally how do I get the Blue Pool crowd-free if they're so popular?
This ones easy, you camp there! Yup, that's right it's free and legal to camp in Willamette National Forest! All national forest rules for dispersed camping are in effect here.
The Mackenzie River Trail has a couple options for primitive campsites that you will see on the hike in with the best option being just before the Blue Pool comes into site.
There are several flat tent sites located on the side and a little off the trail in this area. Perfect location to stop over to enjoy the view of the Blue Pool before bed and wake up to them in the morning.
Typical visitors won't be starting their hike in until around 8am which gives you until around 9am to have the pools to yourself. Not that other people aren't fun - but this area is known to get more congested than the New Jersey Turnpike at rush hour so enjoy the serenity while you have it!
Other Important Information
There are no restrooms nor garbage cans at Tamolitch Falls meaning everything is carry in - carry out. Leave No Trace policies are important to keep this area looking natural.
I was impressed by how clean the area was during my visit - it's not uncommon for areas like this to get littered with beer bottles and cans but on a sweep around the pool I could hardly find a single piece of litter to pick up!
If you do plan to camp, you must adhere to camping LNT policy and follow all other camping regulations including the most important restriction, fire restrictions. Making fires in the backcountry is against LNT principles and they are often restricted in Oregon.
Your best bet is to always play it safe and never make fires or if needed, use a camping stove instead.
Additional information about camping can be found here.
Additional information about Tamolitch Blue Pool can be found here.
Hope you get to check out this insane natural wonder of Oregon - always a highlight for people visiting!
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