Columbia River Gorge: waterfall Elopement Style Vow Renewal
I have a secret to share with you: I really love taking photos during misty Pacific Northwest days and this Columbia River Gorge waterfall elopement style vow renewal is totally a reason why! After two years as husband and wife, Nick and Bri decided they wanted to renew their vows to celebrate their anniversary. Nick and Bri are also photographers, so I was so honored when they reached out asking me to adventure with them. This Arizona couple was going to be in Portland, Oregon for a wedding, which made the Columbia River Gorge the perfect adventure spot.
Now, before I can share the heart-warming details about the dreamy day, I have to set the scene about why the Columbia River Gorge is so cool. It’s time for another fun-facts-and-nerdy-details-spiel about the outdoors with Mollie! If you’re a familiar face around Between the Pine, you’re probably rolling your eyes at how “classic Mollie” that sentence just was. But, if you’re a new friend of Between the Pine, then I’m so glad you’re here. And, I love getting to share my knowledge about all-things waterfalls, mountains, Oregon and Pacific Northwest with you. So, keep reading and you may just learn something new!
History of the Columbia River Gorge: fun facts to learn for your waterfall elopement
I love learning about and sharing the history of the best waterfall elopement spots, and the Columbia River Gorge has such interesting history! The Gorge has been a vital source of resources for thousands of years, and served as the center for northwest trade among tribal nations (USDA Forest Service). Over the years, there have been trade goods found from Minnesota, the southwest, Vancouver Island and even the far north; the Columbia River Gorge was truly the pathway that connected the Pacific Northwest to the rest of the continent (USDA Forest Service). By the mid-1800s, almost 12,000 people arrived at the eastern edge of the Columbia River Gorge after traveling along the Oregon Trail. As more settlers made their way west, the indigenous people were displaced from their lands and alternative routes were created to avoid the dangerous travel conditions in the Columbia River.
The historic Columbia River Highway is one of those alternative travel routes! This 75-mile roadway is “the oldest scenic byway in the nation” and was named “King of the Roads” (Backroad Planet). This highway pioneered advances in road design and paved the way (pun intended) for modern highway development in twentieth-century America (Oregon Encyclopedia). In the early 1900s, a retired lumberman and hotelier Simon Benson purchased many scenic spots along the highway, and donated them back to the state of Oregon to preserve them for future generations (Oregon Encyclopedia). Boy, aren’t we glad he did! Because of Benson’s donation, you’ll find eight different waterfalls along this historic highway (including where Bri and Nick renewed their vows)!
Did you learn something new? Good, that’s amazing! Now, let’s return to our regularly scheduled programming: Bri and Nick’s waterfall elopement style vow renewal in the Columbia River Gorge. I met Bri and Nick with donuts in-hand because I knew that was their favorite food group (incredible, right?). It was raining as our day began, so we hid under the trees. I whipped out the classic clear umbrellas, and we made our way to the base of the waterfall.
Finding the perfect waterfall elopement location in the Columbia River Gorge
Like I mentioned earlier, there are eight iconic waterfalls along the historic highway in the Columbia River Gorge and all of them could be great spots for your waterfall elopement. Click the links below to find trail information for how to explore the stunning waterfalls (please note: some of these trails are closed due to damage caused by the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017).
Elowah Falls (closed)
Oneonta Falls (closed)
Shepperds Dell (closed)
I love the location where Bri and Nick chose to review their vows. Waterfalls make such epic backdrops for any adventure photo session, like engagement photos or an elopement. If you love the moody and misty vibes of this Columbia River Gorge waterfall elopement, check out the waterfalls in this Snoqualmie National Forest engagement session and this Eastern Washington elopement at Palouse Falls.
Bri and Nick stood at the base of the 249-foot waterfall and read the letters they wrote to one another. Tears were shed as the waterfall mist settled around them (keep scrolling to see what I mean!). After they read their letters, Nick looked over towards me and said, “We felt like you weren’t even here.” Never have I ever been so honored to have been invisible in my whole life! This is one of my favorite moments as an adventure elopement photographer. My goal is to make my couples feel so comfortable and natural in front of my camera that they practically forget that I’m even there. After we wrapped up at the waterfall, we made our way to an overlook of the Columbia River Gorge to end our day.
Columbia River Gorge conditions after the Eagle Creek Fire: things to keep in mind when planning your waterfall elopement
While much has been repaired since the 2017 Eagle Creek fire, here’s what you’ll want to know when planning your waterfall elopement. In July 2017, a 15-year-old started the Eagle Creek Fire, a massive wildfire (it was over 48,000 acres) in the Columbia River Gorge. Over 121 miles of national forest trails were affected. Although many of the trails have reopened, some of the U.S. Forest Service and State Park trails in the Columbia River Gorge area are still closed. The Columbia River Gorge was already a dynamic area before this fire, and a massive fire like this can definitely change the risks you might encounter. (For example, the Eagle Creek Fire increased flood and landslide risks in the Columbia River Gorge).
With that in mind, here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind as you plan your Columbia River Gorge waterfall elopement:
Read the Forest Service’s guide on safety tips for the Columbia River Gorge burn area
Check trail conditions
Check weather conditions
After a wildfire of this size, there are a few specific risks you’ll want to keep in mind. Specifically, falling or fallen trees, rocks and holes from burned root systems. There’s also increased chances of landslides or mudslides especially during high winds or storms. The Forest Service put together a comprehensive guide with a list of 10 safety tips for burn areas. So, my first recommendation is that you head over there and read that so you know what to expect! Either way, you’ll want to check the trail conditions to make sure the trail you were thinking about is open. You should also check weather conditions and be especially mindful if there might be high wind or storms when you’re in the area.
What to pack for your waterfall elopement: a checklist
Curious what to pack for your waterfall elopement? I’ve made my go-to list of things to bring for your waterfall adventure:
Towel and change of clothes
A flowy dress for that epic shot
An umbrella (I linked my fav clear ones below!)
Whether it’s a sunny day or the classic PNW misty weather, you’ll likely get wet from the mist of the waterfall. To help keep you dry, bring a towel and a change of clothes for after your adventure session. I also recommend throwing your waterproof mascara in your pack, as well! The base of waterfalls tend to be colder than other nearby areas and the estimated temperatures. I always recommend bringing a puffy coat to keep you warm! Speaking of the base of the waterfall, the winds tend to be breezy. Mother Nature will be your biggest asset at the waterfall base if you wear clothing made of material that will move with the breeze (like Bri’s dress!). For eight of my favorite styles that photograph best, check out my full guide to choosing the best elopement dress.
I always recommend embracing the weather, whatever it may throw your way! Click here for my recommendation for the best clear umbrella. Check out Megan and Eric’s amazing first look featuring these clear umbrellas.
Eloping in Oregon: the perfect place to chase waterfalls for your very own waterfall elopement
It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with the Pacific Northwest, and Oregon is one of my favorite places in the world for a waterfall elopement. Within the state of Oregon, you can find the coast, giant redwood trees, so many waterfalls, the desert like the Painted Hills, and the mountains like Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters Mountains. Oregon truly has it all, which makes it an amazing place to consider getting eloped. Want to feel inspired about eloping in Oregon? Check out my full guide to eloping in Oregon.
Choosing the best elopement package for your waterfall elopement
I’m here to help you with all things waterfall elopement and adventure wedding. I partner with you to plan your best day ever with my library of resources and knowledge of the outdoors, and I’ve created the elopement packages below to help you decide the best way to invest in your day. These elopement packages are tailored to fit any type of adventurous wedding day. So, click below to explore the breakdowns of the packages I offer to find the one that is right for you.
Meet your waterfall elopement photographer
I feel most at home outdoors, so it is no surprise that is where I gravitate towards as a waterfall elopement photographer. In college, I was known as the “granola girl” because my outfits were always fit to go to class or hiking (not that I ever skipped class to go to the mountains, lol). From my days of exploring the hills of the Ozark Mountains, I am now hiking through Columbia River Gorge Trails, chasing waterfalls in Oregon and beyond. I am passionate about this job of mine and the landscapes that the Columbia River Gorge has to offer especially for epic waterfall elopements. I’m a Pacific Northwest-based elopement photographer who knows the state of Oregon and the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls well. Basically, I’m dying for a reason to shoot another waterfall elopement, and I’d love for your adventure elopement to be the reason! Click here to learn more about me, your waterfall elopement photographer!
In their words: Nick and Bri’s thoughts about their waterfall elopement style vow renewal
Nick and Bri’s waterfall elopement style vow renewal was so beautifully theirs, from the airbnb they chose to the time of year. One thing I always do when working with my couples is help make their day EXACTLY how they imagined it. But don’t just take my word for it! Here’s what Juliana and Zack had to say about sharing their time with me on their best day ever (and if you end up naming your foster dog Mollie, too, please send me photos!!!):
“We are in absolute awe of our gallery! We were so excited to see them after a long weekend of working weddings and wanted to see them together! We love our images so much and can’t wait to share some today on our two-year anniversary!!! Thank you thank you thank you for your talent and for giving us unforgettable memories! We had so much fun shooting with you and knew you were the perfect photographer to capture our day. Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts!”
Are you dreaming up your perfect waterfall adventure? Let’s connect and make your waterfall dreams reality!
There are so many incredible destinations to choose from when eloping, with some of the best places to elope in the US just at your fingertips, which is why I compiled this list of my all time favorite locations in the United States. Keep reading to find your dream location!