World Waterfall Database

North Fork Falls

Douglas County, Oregon, United States

Status: Cataloged
This waterfall has been surveyed in person by the World Waterfall Database.

Detailed Info

The Kentucky Falls Natural Area contains three of the best waterfalls in Oregon's Coast Range, all accessible via the same well graded trail system. North Fork Falls is the largest and most impressive of the three falls, found along the North Fork Smith River immediately adjacent to Lower Kentucky Falls itself. While Lower Kentucky Falls makes a clean leap over its cliff, the North Fork instead is split around a small rock promontory and begins its 125-foot drop by falling in two streams at 90-degree angles to one another. The river-right stream quickly corrects its course after falling into a narrow crevice, at which point both channels of the falls spray in parallel to the rocky riverbed below. During periods of high flow the river swells to such levels that, like Upper Kentucky Falls further up the trail, the two segments of the falls get swallowed up and it reverts to a single broad veil of water thundering into the basin.

From the riverbed where the falls are best viewed from, hikers will be treated to a collective view of both North Fork Falls and Lower Kentucky Falls. During the drier months this view is quite easy to achieve due to the lower streamflow in Kentucky Creek. However in the winter and spring months when both streams are swollen, it may be difficult to achieve a good view of both North Fork Falls and both falls together without getting your feet wet - and the rocks in the streambed are quite slick to boot.

Though both Kentucky Creek and the North Fork Smith River are similarly affected by the dry season, North Fork Falls seems to take a heavier toll by the summer's reduced streamflow because of how the river splits into two channels. By late July or early August expect the falls to just be a wispy spray of mist scattering down the cliff (it will flow all year however), while neighboring Lower Kentucky Falls should appear somewhat more organized since it drops in a much narrower plume.

History and Naming

North Fork Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.

Our Thoughts

North Fork Falls is really the capstone in the excellent Kentucky Falls trail, even though there isn't a totally clear view of the falls from the viewing deck at the end of the trail. The falls are among the most impressive in the Coast Range, and coupled with the other waterfalls on Kentucky Creek, it's quite hard to beat this hike in terms of quality of waterfalls for your money (or effort as it may be).

Location & Directions

Coordinates:   Unknown
Elevation:   913 feet
USGS Map:   Baldy Mountain 7 1/2"

There are multiple routes to the Kentucky Falls trailhead depending on the direction you come from; we will be describing the two most direct and most likely to be utilized. If approaching from the south, take Highway 101 to Reedsport and continue north out of town on Highway 101 across the Smith River bridge, then turn right onto Lower Smith River Road. Continue on Smith River Road for 11 miles, then immediately before a bridge across the North Fork Smith River, turn left onto Road 48. Now on Road 48 (both a county an Forest Service road), continue for just over 10-1/2 miles to the junction with Forest Service Road 23, where a sign will be seen pointing to Kentucky Falls.

If approaching from the north, take Highway 36 to the town of Mapleton, then head east on Highway 126. Immediately after crossing the Umpqua river, turn right onto Sweet Creek Road, which eventually becomes Forest Service Road 48. Continue for 14.3 miles to where the pavement ends at the Goodwin summit, and then proceed another 6.2 winding miles down the hill to the same junction with Forest Service Road 23 described above.

From either direction, now along Forest Service Road 23, follow Road 23 (which is paved) for another 12.4 miles to the Kentucky Falls trailhead - there are several signs marking the Kentucky Falls Natural Area before the trailhead to allow you to anticipate it. The trail begins across the road from the parking area. The first three-quarters of a mile are easy and level, leading to the top of Upper Kentucky Falls. From the top of the falls the grade increases a bit and several exposed sections of unguarded cliff are passed. Once past Upper Kentucky Falls the grade eases again and the trail continues at a more gentle pace until it passes the top of Lower Kentucky Falls, at which time several switchbacks descend to the viewing deck at the base of Lower Kentucky Falls, a total of 2 miles from the trailhead. North Fork Falls will be visible partially through the trees to the left of Lower Kentucky Falls. For a clear view, find the steps that lead down to the creek, then rock hop downstream for about a hundred feet to clear views (the rocks can be quite slick when wet).

By The Numbers

The information presented in this table is meant to help identify and clarify the physical aspects of the waterfall for comparative purposes. While we try to ensure this information is as accurate as possible, sometimes it will prove necessary to either estimate or flat out guess at certain characteristics where either enough information isn't readily available, is not known, or we were not able to confirm a given trait upon surveying. This information may be changed at any given time to ensure accuracy.

Total Height

The Total Height listed for the waterfall represents the difference in elevation from the top of the uppermost drop, to the bottom of the lowermost drop of the waterfall, including all stretches of interstitial stream in between. Stream between two tiers of a waterfall is counted in its overall height regardless of whether or not that section of the stream would be legitimately considered a waterfall on its own right, were it to be isolated. Waterfalls with only one drop will of have the height of only the single drop listed here.

Tallest Drop

The Tallest Drop figure represents the height of the largest single drop within a multi-stepped waterfall. Waterfalls with only one drop will have the total height of the waterfall repeated here.

Num of Drops

The Number of Drops in a waterfall is a tally of the total number of distinct drops which make up the waterfall. Stretches of interstitial stream in between two or more distinct drops of a single waterfall are NOT considered to be distinct drops of the waterfall unless the section of stream in question would otherwise qualify as a waterfall were it to be isolated.

Avg Width

The Average Width of the waterfall represents the breadth of the waterfall from bank to bank under typical flow conditions, or if the waterfall has been Cataloged, under the conditions which it was most thoroughly surveyed. Often this number will be approximated because of a lack of approachability to many waterfalls. We often utilize Google Earth to measure the width (where imagery is of sufficient quality and resolution to allow it.

Maximum Width

Maximum Width represents a hypothetical measurement of roughly how wide a waterfall could get during peak streamflow or flood conditions. For smaller waterfalls, this figure will generally not differ much from the Average Width measurement, but for broader waterfalls - especially those that feature a crest that isn't constricted - this figure can at times be consideraby larger. Like the Average Width measurement, this measurement will take into account the difference in width at the top and bottom of the waterfall as much as possible, but will often be made based on the width of the crest of th falls alone.


The Pitch of a waterfall is an estimated - often very roughly - measure of the average slope or steepness of a waterfall. The Pitch figure only takes into account sections of stream which are actively falling. Pools or stretches of level stream in between two or more successive drops of the falls will not factor in this figure. As an example, a waterfall which features two truly free-falling leaps separated by several dozen yards of flat stream will have a Pitch of 90 degrees. Similarly, a waterfall with two drops separated by a pool, one with a true free-falling drop, and one with a Horsetail type fall will average the two, so while the Plunging drop has a Pitch of 90 degrees, if the Horsetail drop has a Pitch of 45 degrees, the total Pitch will be roughly 67 degrees.


The Run of a waterfall is a measurement representing the total linear distance on the ground between the top and bottom of a waterfall. This figure is not often easy to establish with a high degree of precision and as such will often be estimated. Waterfalls with a longer Run will usually either be less steep, often cascading type waterfalls, or will feature multiple steps separated by shorter stretches of a more gradual gradient streambed.


The system of classification of waterfall forms we use is a heavily modified derivative of the classifications outlined by Greg Plumb in his "Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest" books. While plumb uses eight distnct forms, we wanted further granularity and opted to break down the hierarchy twofold: first based on the overall pitch of the waterfall, and then based on what shape the fall takes as it makes its descent. There are five primary Categories of falls in this system: Plunge, Horsetail, Steep Cascades, Shallow Cascades, and Rapids. Additional deliniation is then applied depending on characteristics such as the breadth of the falls, whether it splits into two or more channels, whether it falls in multiple successive drops, etc. For more information on our waterfall form classifications, see the Help page.


The watershed which a waterfall occurs within, if it is specified, will be based on the ultimate distributary watercourse to the ocean. For example, Washington's Palouse Falls occurs along the Palouse River - which is a tributary to the Snake River, which is itself a tributary to the Columbia River, which ultimately enters the Pacific Ocean, so Palouse Falls would then fall within the Columbia River watershed. Streams which empty directly into the ocean, or into a minor basin which then empties to the ocean will often have this field left blank.


The name of the watercourse which the waterfall occurs along. If the watercourse is not known to have an officially or colloquially recognized name, this field is left blank.

Avg Volume

The volume of water present in the stream at the location of the waterfall. This is often the most difficult figure to pin down because accurately measuring streamflow is not a simple process. We will rely on USGS data as much as possible, and attempt to take into account seasonal fluctuations in stream levels if possible. There is no guarantee that this figure will be accurate, and in cases where there is no USGS data to use, it may be a very, very rough estimate at best.


If known, the primary source of the watercourse which produces the waterfall will be listed here. This is helpful in determining whether a waterfall may flow more consistently during certain periods of the year - streams which originate in Springs, Lakes, or Glaciers will often flow more consistently throughout the year than those fueled by simply Runoff. The source of the stream may also be either unknown or undetermined.

Flow Consistency

A rough estimation of how many months out of the year the stream which produces the waterfall will actually hold water. The vast majority of waterfalls featured on this website will technically be truly perennial waterfalls (those that flow all year long), but some may see their flow dwindle greatly in the late summer months. This figure will not take into account the winter months when the waterfall may freeze, because in such cases the waterfall will very often be inaccessible. Entries which specify a Flow Consistncy of 12 Months should in general have an acceptable flow at any time of year (but may be better during certain periods - see below).

Best Flow

A general estimate of the best period of the year during which time the falls will be considered at optimal conditions, or flowing at their best. There may be variance within the range specified where the flow will be better or worse, but visiting at any time in the range specified (if available) will generally present the waterfall in its best light.



Cataloged Icon
Waterfalls which are Cataloged we have visited and surveyed in person. Statistical information should be quite accurate (for the most part), and exact measurements will often be available (information is not guaranteed to always be up to date). Detailed information, directions, and photographs will almost always be available.
Confirmed Icon
Confirmed Waterfalls are known to exist, should be relatively accurately mapped and geotagged, and the statistical information available will often be dependable. If height information is presented, it may be estimated but should be accurate. Directions will not likely be available.
Unconfirmed Icon
Unconfirmed Waterfalls are often marked on a published map, but we have yet to confirm the exact location and / or whether or not its stature is significant enough to qualify for listing in the database. Statistical information may be estimated and may be inaccurate. No directions.
Unknown Icon
Waterfalls marked as Unknown are either suspected to exist based on heresay or a hunch, or we have received unverified information suggesting a waterfall may exist near the location provided but cannot corroborate it in any way. Geodata may not be accurate, the location may not be known at all, and statistical information will be estimated and highly inaccurate.
Inundated Icon
Inundated Waterfalls have been submerged beneath lakes or reservoirs, usually a result of impoundment of a river behind a dam, and most often no longer functionally exist (there may be rare exceptions). We maintain records for these features out of historical importance.
Subterranean Icon
Though not common, some waterfalls can be found entirely underground within cave systems. Access to subterranean waterfalls can vary from easy via developed walkways to requiring a high level of extremely technical spelunking skill, including familiarity with ropework and a distinct lack of claustrophobia.
Disqualified Icon
Waterfalls which have been marked as Disqualified do not have the necessary stature or features to qualify as a legitimate waterfall according to our criteria. We will maintain records for entries with this status where the feature is well known and / or may have been historically referred to as a waterfall at some point in time.
Posted Icon
Posted Waterfalls are known to exist, and we may have a large amount of information associated with them, but are located on private property and are not legally accessible to the general public. Accessing waterfalls with this status should not be attempted without first being explicitly granted permission of the property owner.

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