Oregon Summer 2017 Trip Day 5: Horsetail Falls

After the reptile show in the morning, we set out to a tremendous natural area just outside of Portland that has countless waterfalls and nature trails. We visited the big one first – Multnomah Falls – and it was stunning. A near 200 meter tall waterfall! There was a visitors center with a tiny wildlife exhibit that said salamanders could be near. It was beautiful but it was crowded and I knew my one true goal of salamander times would not lie at Multnomah Falls. So we ventured on – not very far but still onward to Horsetail Falls.

This is where all of my dreams came true.

dscn3118.jpgOne of my biggest problems with finding salamanders was that I visited in late summer – when it was really dry. There weren’t many wet patches, aside from ponds and streams, in the forests I was in so the salamanders were probably in hiding. The base of this waterfall gave me a pond, a creek and some misty wet mossy areas to explore. I started with the left base of the waterfall because it looked perfect. There was just a blanket of wet moss. I found frogs. This was the beginning of endless frogs.


First was this little guy, who didn’t move very far throughout the duration of my visit. I don’t think he was especially happy. 😦

giphy-downsized-largeThere were two more frogs on this side of the waterfall that also stayed in the same place but did a little bit of hopping in the mean time. Their inactivity made them great to photograph!

As an aside, I’ve been taking videos like this frog here to turn into gifs. Just for things that don’t really warrant a whole video on YouTube or the effort for people to press play and have to deal with the sound which is usually nothing or loud wind.



I also found several of these wasps hovering around the bank of the waterfall.

Most of them looked like they were just doing generic wasp things but this one stopped buzzing to pulsate its abdomen for a while. Some very cursory internet research yielded this great forum response to someone who had similar questions to me.


Forum post from The Straight Dope

Now that I am thinking about it, the behavior resembles that of the eclipse bee. I had assumed it was pulsating after having stung my purse but maybe it was something more like the above.

After all of this excitement my friend and ventured down the creek to look for salamanders. Guess what there was that wasn’t salamanders. It was frogs.




 After deciding that I had seen enough frogs I started checking under some of the larger stones and logs. Underneath there were crayfish! Some were big and some were small, below is a picture of the largest one I found.


But if you thought that was as exciting as crayfish could get then guess again! My friend found this little buddy under a rock on the opposite side of the stream. My marginally educated guess is a cave crayfish, which is characterized largely by being translucent. In particular I am guessing it’s a Salem Cave Crayfish which is usually found more often in, oddly enough, caves so I think we were fairly lucky to have spotted it in an open creek here.

After finding crayfish and frogs I decided that I wanted to check by the waterfall again, this time on the right side. (I checked the left side several times again before and after all of this but only to find these same three frogs, haha) That’s where I saw this. (except from the other side, I came from where my backpack is).


I had a really great feeling about what was under this log and that’s where I peeked. You would never guess who was in there. There was a huge, buggy eyed salamander peering right back at me. This would be the first and only photo I got of this little buddy. (Probably a mature Pacific giant salamander (Dicamptodontidae) but it’s hard to tell).


I spent the next 10 or 15 minutes gently moving stones and sticks from this side and the other side of this log to get a better look at it. I was going to id it, and photograph it and get great videos. This was going to be the salamander of the trip and of my dreams.

It got away.

This little guy didn’t want to looked at and he crept and hid and eventually slinked off back into the river and we never saw him again.

But don’t worry, my salamander dreams are not dashed completely. As I am turning over a stone on top of this log, from underneath some dead leaves crawls the tiniest little salamander. This was amazing, two salamanders in one place after I had spent the entire trip looking for them. I didn’t waste a moment and I got him in my specimen box for a closer look.



My guess, due to the slight coloration on his back is the Dunn’s salamander (Plethodon dunni), probably a juvenile. Here’s a video of him making his way ambling along the moss.

After I released this little guy, I went to see if my first salamander buddy had come out or moved back into underneath the log. Sadly not so I resumed a general search. I never expected to find another salamander!

Given that I got to see this juvenile Pacific giant salamander (Dicamptodontidae) up close – this was the best animal discovery of my whole year. ♥


And here’s the little buddy in action!

I want to mention too, that none of these Oregon animal experiences would have been possible without a very good friend of mine. Thank you for taking me to all of these amazing places and for your patience when I spent hours on end crawling around looking for small critters. ♥ I’ll never forget it.

I thought the salamanders and heartfelt thank yous were a good way to end this post. Believe it or not, these salamanders weren’t the last creatures we saw at this same log!




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