Finding the perfect swimming hole can be a bit like finding your own slice of heaven. Clear water, a beautiful forest and epic waterfalls only help to make the swimming hole even more epic.
Naked Falls had all those things and more. That’s why it was so terrible when a timber company bought it and closed it off to the public. The Washington swimming spot on the Washougal River had been a staple for anyone lucky enough to visit it and now it was a thing of the past.
Steven Epling wasn’t happy about the shutdown at all.
“It represents the child in me that comes alive every time I get back there,” says Epling, a Vancouver man who visited the falls as a child.
Epling didn’t waste any time trying to get the logging company to allow the public to access Naked Falls – he opted to buy the entire property himself.
The 37-year-old credit union manager sold three rental properties, took out a small loan and bought the entire 131 acres around the falls in March. The logging company had actually closed the land off the previous June after it became a liability.
“Maybe it’s naive, but I believe it’s more dangerous when no one is allowed to be there,” says Epling. “People are getting it back. Are they really going to risk losing it again?”
Epling is learning about natural area management as he goes, but he’s always wanted to own waterfront property.
“This is phenomenally better than anything I imagined,” he says. “I feel a tremendous responsibility.”
He plans to eventually add campgrounds to allow even more people to enjoy it.