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Environment | local | News | Discovering Valhalla: Oregon's Hidden Gorge

Secret's Out! Have You Been To Valhalla?


This summer, Oregon Field Guide documented Valhalla, a half-mile gorge in the massive Mount Jefferson Wilderness. The rugged destination includes a slot canyon and is home to beautiful glades and jaw-dropping waterfalls.

For the last year and half, Mike Malone, a 34-year Forest Service veteran, and Oregon Field Guide researched personal channels and online, which included digging into Internet outdoor forums and topographic maps, and could not find any specific mention of the slot canyon nor exploration of the gorge. Still the crew believed there must be some adventurous explorers and native people who have witnessed this beautiful place. 

After publishing our stories, a few of these intrepid folks reached out. They shared their tales of venturing into the remote gorge nicknamed Valhalla. 

What about you? Have you ever been to Valhalla? Drop us a line. We would love to hear your story!

Kayaker Jacob Cruser and his friends Anna Herring and Dalton Bixby sought out the “Shangri-La” area after studying maps for possible kayaking adventures. After deciding the gorge wasn’t really kayak-friendly, they headed back to their cars, with the idea of suggesting the location their canyoneering friends for the future. That was a few summers ago and unfortunately they didn’t have a camera.

“The gorge looked demanding and finding the right time was tough,” Cruser said. “It’s a lot easier to talk about doing something than to actually do something :)”

Mahogany Aulenbach, who lived at Breitenbush Hot Springs, first visited the area in 1986. He backpacked into the area and was intrigued enough by what he saw to continue his exploration over the years.

A couple of trips later, in 2006, he and friends Reed Wilson and Garde Wells rappelled into the “Shangri-La” big waterfalls area and named the southwest falls “Dinah-Mo Falls” in honor of ancient forest activist Dinah Ross. (View photos from that trip in the slideshow below.)

Mahogany Aulenbach first visited the area nicknamed 'Valhalla' in 1986. He and friends returned in 2006.

Michael Donnelly, who is active in forest preservation and part of the community that got Dinah-Mo Peak officially named, learned of the gorge from Ray Crist of the Detroit Ranger District back in the 1980s.

“He warned us to ‘never go there, it’s too dangerous,’” Donnelly said. He added Crist told him about other places as well, but he’s keeping those secret for now.

“We kinda have an ethic that we only reveal places that are threatened and need a constituency if it comes to having to work on protection (at one time only about 40 people had ever been up Opal Creek!),” Donnelly said.

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