Tsolo Falls is one of the most interesting stream features in the Columbia Gorge. It occurs about two miles up-stream from the mouth, where Rock Creek has carved through a thick, slanting bedrock slab. There are deep bowls and delicate fins, and finally an expansive pool, perfect for trout and crayfish watching.
Getting to Tsolo is relatively easy if you know where it is. Drive up the Red Bluff Road north from Stevenson, WA, and park along it about a half mile beyond the first major split (the right fork leads down to a bridge over the stream while the left fork, the one you want to stay on, continues straight). From there, bushwhacking is required to reach the falls.
Since there is no trail, be prepared to scramble down a moderate slope, and through dense (and often prickly) foliage. Gloves are highly recommended. The trip might not be suitable for those unfamiliar with off-trail travel.
Another, more interesting (but longer) approach is to take the right fork of the road and park at the bridge over Rock Creek. From there, it’s possible to follow the stream-bed up to Tsolo. This approach traverses some fantastic bedrock expanses, one of which has earned the nickname “the Pockets” due to dozens of beautifully sculpted potholes and bowls.
Tsolo is an unofficial name for the falls, and is a word from Chinook Jargon that means “to wander.” It was assigned to honor the first people to inhabit the region.
The stretch from the Pockets to Tsolo is also prime redband trout habitat. Small, native fish, they spend their days hiding under submerged shelves and boulders. The broad, largely brush-free nature of the stream in this section is inviting for both fly-fisherman and those who simply love to watch the fish themselves.