Tips for Visiting the Tamolitch Blue Pool in Oregon

My wife is from Oregon and my in laws still live there so I like to think I have researched just about every good photography location within the state.  Yet, I still come across beautiful scenes from time to time that I have never heard of.  The Tamolitch Blue Pool is is of those places I came across last week when I saw a great image from Dayana Obadia.  I picked her brain a bit on the location and then got to researching it so I would be prepared to visit and so I could share the location with you guys too.  I am going to share a bit about Dayana’s experience at the Tamolitch Blue Pool and then share some additional helpful information I have found.  All the images in this article are shared with the permission of Dayana.

Dayana’s Experience at Tamolitch Blue Pool

Dayana says her and her husband went to Oregon with a list of beautiful places to go to and Tamolitch Blue Pool was one on the top of their list.  This surprised me since there are so many incredible places in Oregon and I had never heard of the Tamolitch Blue Pool before, but Dayana said the Tamolitch Blue Pool did not disappoint despite their high expectations.

Dayana says the hike to Tamolitch Blue Pool is a very easy 35 minute trek that is easily accessible for all ability levels. On the day of their visit, Dayana says the McKenzie river, where Tamolitch Blue Pool is located, was dull because of nearby forest fires, so it gave a hazy and reddish light like sunset even during midday.

Dayana says their view to the pool was breathtaking.  To share her own words: “what a deep BLUE!!! It was like looking to a diamond ?. The bottom of the pool was clearly visible. We kept hiking down towards the shore of the pool, there we meet three people who where about to jump.. so we got excited to do it as well. After several minutes we got the courage to jump and we did it among new friends that we just met there. The water was coooold. 35f to be precise. I think we were in the water less than 20 seconds.”

The Tamolitch Blue Pool is Deep, Blue and Clear

Upon first site, many might be surprised that Dayana and her husband jumped in.  Because the water is so clear, many think it is only four or five feet deep; however, the pool is amazingly 30 feet deep in some areas.  Given that it is that deep, people enjoy jumping in from the dry waterfall edge, which I think must be a rush thinking you are going to smash right through the clear water into the bottom.  The jump from the waterfall edge is about a 70 foot drop.  Given the difficulty to judge the depth of the pool and the freezing cold water, it can be very dangerous to jump from the waterfall edge, and people have died in the past from jumping so BE CAREFUL.

Dayana described the color as looking like a blue crystal.  Others have compared it to blue antifreeze or Kool-Aid.  Others have said the color is deep turquoise.

Is there a waterfall there or not?

The Tamolitch Blue Pool is actually a pool that formed at the base of a waterfall along the McKenzie River.  Unfortunately for us waterfall lovers, the McKenzie River decided to change course.  It now runs underground through a lava tube a few miles upstream from the Tamolitch Blue Pool, and it emerges from the rocks underwater in the Tamolitch Blue Pool.  While the pool looks so still, you wouldn’t think it is a flowing river, the end of the pool turns into a rush of water as the McKenzie River returns to flowing above ground.

Some may be calling me a liar because they have seen a waterfall flowing into the Tamolitch Blue Pool.  As those lucky few can attest, there are still a few times during the year where the McKenzie River gets enough water to flow over the waterfall into the Tamolitch Blue Pool.  This condition is most likely during wet, rainy winters.

How to Get There

The trail head to reach Tamolitch Blue Pool is reached from the McKenzie River Scenic Highway (Highway 126).  As it is located in the middle of the Willamette National Forest, it can be reached from a number of different directions.

If you are starting in Eugene, just head east on Highway 126 for an hour or so.

If you are coming down from Portland, take the I5 south until you reach Highway 22, the Santiam Highway, at Salem, exit 253.  Take Highway 22 east for 80 miles until you reach the Santiam Junction by the small airport.  There, you will turn west and continue on Highway 20 for another 3 miles before turning south on Highway 126, the McKenzie River Scenic Highway.

If you are starting in Bend/Redmond/Sisters, take Highway 20 north from Sisters for about 28 miles before turning south on Highway 126, the McKenzie River Scenic Highway.

Whichever way you take to get to the McKenzie River Scenic Highway, you will turn off at Trailbridge Reservoir. There, you will head west on Forest Road 732, crossing the McKenzie River. Go straight at the junction, and northeast up Forest Road 655 to the McKenzie River Trailhead.

The Hike

The Tamolitch Blue Pool is part of Oregon’s famous McKenzie River Trail.  It is on the top half of the trail about 2 miles from the halfway point on the trail. Because it is somewhat near the middle of the trail, you can access the pool by either hiking down approximately 3 miles from Carmen Smith Reservoir or hiking about 2 miles up the trail from Trailbridge Reservoir.

This hike is considered kid friendly as it pretty moderate, although there is some elevation gain.  The trail also permits dogs, but they are required to be on a leash.  There is free parking at both starting sites (I have heard rumors that there may be a $5 parking fee now so come prepared just in case).  The trail is also very popular so you can expect to see a variety of hikers, runners and mountain bikers along your hike.

Given the shorter distance, most people choose to start up the trail from Trailbridge Reservoir.  The out-and-back trail is 3.7 miles, making the pool a little under 2 miles to reach.  The beginning of the hike goes along the McKenzie River through an old growth Douglas fir forest. As the McKenzie River falls away, you walk along the a cliff and descend into a dry river bed before coming to an old lava flow.

Once you reach the Tamolitch Blue Pool, you can hike over the waterfall ledge and find a trail that leads you down to the side of the pool, or you can just jump off the ledge into the pool, but be aware the pool, as nice as it may look, is going to be dangerously cold on almost any day so be sure to take the necessary caution.  People have died jumping in before so USE EXTREME CAUTION.

About Dayana

Dayana Obadia a Dentist from Venezuela.  She is a nature lover currently living in Austin, Texas, where she is learning photography from her husband, who she describes as an Austinite passionate for traveling, nature, and living life happily. She says they just like to travel to beautiful places whenever they have any time off.  You can find more from Dayana (@sraobadia) and her husband (@crying__minotaur) on Instagram.

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