Complete guide: Trail Of Ten Falls and Silver Falls State Park, Oregon ⋆ We Dream of Travel Blog

Complete guide: Trail Of Ten Falls and Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

Trail of Ten Falls Silver Falls State Park Oregon blog cover graphic.  Text overlaying an image of Lower South Falls in autumn.

Considered the “crown jewel’ of the Oregon State Parks, a visit to Silver Falls State Park guarantees a truly enchanting experience. Within this, the Trail of Ten Falls hike is the crème de la crème.

The breathtaking hike weaves through dense rainforest wilderness alongside creeks within the canyon. Along the way, you’ll discover a mist-shrouded forest of towering douglas fir, verdant ferns, lichen, and moss, as you pass a series of majestic waterfalls.

Of the ten waterfalls you’ll encounter, five of them are over 100ft tall and four have natural paths carved out behind them. While the Pacific Northwest may not be revered for its wet weather, it is this precipitation that has allowed this waterfall paradise to exist. So ensure you pack waterproof clothing, as you’re likely to get wet!

If you’re interested in seeing our favorite images and ordering prints, you can find them in our Silver Falls gallery here.

Disclosure: In order to keep providing you with free content, this post likely contains affiliate links. If you make a booking or purchase through one of these links we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. So a HUGE thank you to you if you click one of these links 🙂

Silver Falls State Park Overview

Light bursts through a tree in the rainforest along the Trail of Ten Falls
Light bursts through the trees in the rainforest along the Trail of Ten Falls

Established in 1933, Silver Falls State Park is the largest state park in Oregon, encompassing more than 9,000 acres. Each year this spectacular park receives over 1.1 million visitors.

It is home to some of the best waterfalls in Oregon, which is no easy feat considering Oregon has more waterfalls than any other state in the US. On top of this, its close proximity to Portland makes for an easy day trip to Silver Falls.

While there are many different hikes in Silver Falls State Park, the Trail of Ten Falls is the ultimate hike for waterfall viewing. This designated National Recreation Trail is a 7.8-mile loop trail. The hike will have you traversing through the lush forest past 10 picturesque waterfalls and even allows you to walk behind four of them.

Of all the incredible places to visit in Oregon, Silver Falls is easily one of the best!

Quick Info About Trail of Ten Falls Hike

Map of Silver Falls State Park

Official Map of Trail of Ten Falls

Below is the official park map. You can find a downloadable version of this map on the Silver Falls website.

Map of the Trail of Ten Falls Silver Falls State Park Oregon
Map of the Trail of Ten Falls.

Interactive Google Map of Silver Falls State Park

We’ve also put together an interactive Google Map of Silver Falls. This map features all of the waterfalls, trailheads and accommodation options we mention within this blog post, as well as driving directions from Portland and Eugene. Click here or on the image below to open the map in a new tab.

You will also find maps for each of the trail routes further down this blog post in the corresponding section. These show the detailed walking routes for Trail of Ten Falls and other alternative routes.

Silver Falls State Park Map
Silver Falls State Park Map.

Getting toSilver Falls State Park

A long exposure of the base of South Falls with autumn leaves in the foreground
There is ample parking near South Falls.

Silver Falls State Park is located on Highway 214 near Silverton, about 25 miles (40km) southeast of Salem and 55 miles (88km) south of Portland. There are four trailheads and parking lots for Silver Falls, each of which will be covered in the hiking section further on in this guide:

  • South Falls Day Use Area
  • North Falls Day Use and Group Camp
  • North Falls Trailhead
  • Winter Falls Trailhead

The South Falls Day Use Area has the most ample parking and facilities, including restrooms, water fountains, a cafe, and the lodge. Parking is limited at both the North Falls and Winter Falls trailheads. Unless you are camping at North Falls Group Camp, this option is less ideal as it includes a longer hike to the trail.

With the above in mind, you will likely want to navigate to the South Falls Day Use Area. Directions can be easily found by searching for South Falls in Google Maps! You can also find driving directions to Silver Falls from Portland here or from Eugene here.

Day Trip to Silver Falls from Portland

If you don’t have access to a vehicle, then booking a day trip to Silver Falls from Portland is a great option. You can even combine it with a visit to local wineries in the afternoon for the ultimate day out!

Want more waterfalls? You may also enjoy our guide to the Best Waterfalls in Oregon

The Waterfalls Along the Trail of Ten Falls

Before getting into a detailed description of the Trail of Ten Falls hike, we’ll first detail each of the waterfalls you’ll encounter. Hopefully, this will be useful in helping you decide which waterfalls you’re most interested in seeing and whether you should do the entire 7.8-mile loop or hike one of the shorter trails to the ones you find most interesting.

1. South Falls

View from behind South Falls surrounded by autumn colors.
South Falls is one of the waterfalls you can walk behind.

At a mighty 177ft tall, South Falls is the highest waterfall in Silver Falls State Park and, arguably, the most impressive. Due to its ease of access, South Falls is the most popular waterfall in the park and if you’re in a hurry you can visit just this waterfall as an easy 1-mile loop.

You will first catch sight of this majestic single drop cascade from an upper viewpoint just a quarter-mile from the trailhead at South Falls Day Use Area. From here, weave your way down along the path to walk behind the waterfall where you can, quite literally, soak in the views! You are likely to get at least a little wet from the spray behind the waterfall, but it’s an exhilarating experience.

The views of this Oregon icon continue as you follow the Canyon Trail out the other side down to a small scenic bridge. You can cross this bridge to complete the 1-mile loop or continue on to Lower South Falls. Either way, it’s worth at least walking onto the bridge to look up at and appreciate the scale of this towering waterfall.

2. Lower South Falls

A long exposure image of Lower South Falls in Silver Falls State Park surrounded by fall foliage.
Lower South Falls looks particularly brilliant in autumn.

The Trail of Ten Falls continues downstream along the Canyon Trail, passing moss-laden trees and verdant ferns. After less than a mile you will reach Lower South Fallsvia switchbacking stairs, the second of the two waterfalls along the South Fork of Silver Creek. The falls pour out from a V-shape cut into the basalt rock face and tumble 93ft down onto the rocks below.

The path takes you behind Lower South Falls and is narrower than that of the other three waterfalls you can walk behind, with a stone wall bordering the trails. Its wide rectangular shape provides a cascading curtain of water just out of arms reach, creating a different but equally awe-inspiring experience from that of South Falls.

3. Lower North Falls

Long exposure photography of Lower North Falls as seen from the Trail of Ten Falls.
Lower North Falls as seen from the Trail of Ten Falls.

The Canyon Trail continues on to the North Fork of Silver Creek, where the next waterfall you’ll encounter is Lower North Falls. Of the four waterfalls that bear the “North Falls” name, Lower North Falls is the least impressive. With that said,it is still a beautiful waterfall, nestled into lush vegetation and with fallen trees to add further interest.

4. Double Falls

The top of Double Falls, an impressive double-tiered waterfall along the trail of ten falls in Oregon.
The top of Double Falls; an impressive double-tiered waterfall.

Accessed by a short 0.1-mile spur trail before the footbridge over Hult Creek is the tallest of the waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park; Double Falls. I know, we said South Falls was. However, the total height of a waterfall takes into account the sum of all its tiers. Therefore, although Double Falls’ tallest drop is only 141ft, its total drop height is 184ft, making it technically the highest waterfall… although, personally, this seems like cheating.

All that aside, Double Falls remains a beautiful and impressive waterfall during the rainy months of winter and spring. As it is a seasonal waterfall, its volume is often reduced down to a trickle in summer months and occasionally dries up completely. Considering its short hike distance from the main trail, it is well worth checking out as you pass.

5. Drake Falls

Drake Falls surrounded by lush green rainforest vegetation in Silver Falls State Park.
While still beautiful, Drake Falls is one of the less impressive falls in Silver Falls State Park.

At 27ft tall, Drake Falls is the shortest of the waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park and one of the more underwhelming of all of the falls. Additionally,views of these sloping falls are limited to a small viewing deck and are partially obscured by trees.

Fortunately, visiting this waterfall requires no detour if completing the Trail of Ten Falls. Therefore, you may as well take a quick look at it is as you pass!

6. Middle North Falls

Middle North Falls along the Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park Oregon.
Walk behind Middle North Falls for 360° views.

As one of the four waterfalls that you can walk behind, Middle North Falls is possibly the most fun! We visited after heavy rain and the thunderous falls poured a torrent of water, which loudly echoed behind the falls. The trail behind the waterfall has no railing and dead-ends on the other side, having been constructed just to provide better views of the falls.

Despite being much shorter than South Falls at 106ft tall, it was perhaps our favorite of the waterfalls along the Trail of Ten Falls (taking joint first place with North Falls).

It is worth noting that the flow of Middle North Falls varies throughout the year. During the summer the width can be reduced to a narrow 5ft column. In rainier months, it can reach a mighty 60ft wide!

7. Twin Falls

Twin Falls as seen following heavy rain in the autumn.
Twin Falls as seen following heavy rain in the autumn.

If completing the entire Trail of Ten Falls, you will bypass Winter Trail and continue along the Canyon Trail to Twin Falls. It is certainly among the least impressive waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park, but it is on the way to North Falls and requires no detour so it’s best to think of it as a bonus falls.

When water levels are high, North Silver Creek splits into two streams that cascade over the angled basalt ledge. It is this appearance that has earned it the name Twin Falls. Unfortunately, similarly to Drake Falls, views of Twin Falls are limited.

8. North Falls

Taking in the beauty of North Falls surrounded by fall foliage.

Plunging 136ft over its overhanging lip, North Falls is one of the most magnificent waterfalls in the park. We loved North Falls so much that it’s in joint first place for our favorite waterfall in Silver Falls State Park (alongside Middle North Falls)!

Located along the Canyon Trail, North Falls is less than a one-mile hike from the North Falls trailhead, makingit one of the easiest to access as well. It is also the only waterfall visible from the parking lot.

Due to its overhanging geology, it is one of the waterfalls that it’s possible to walk behind. The trail opens up behind the falls to a huge chamber where there’s even a bench to take a minute and just enjoy the moment. The enormity of this cavern echoes the crashing of the falls, amplifying the sound and power of the water. Because the trail is so far from the waterfall, it is also the only one you can walk under without likely getting wet! It is easily one of the best experiences in the Pacific Northwest.

9. Upper North Falls

A girl in a yellow jacket standing at the base of Upper North Falls along the Ten Falls Trail in Silver Falls State Park.
Reach the base of Upper North Falls and feel the mist of the waterfall.

Located 0.3 miles from the North Falls trailhead, Upper North Falls is the only waterfall in the park that is not on a trail loop. It is also one of the few waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park that you can stand at the base of.

Tumbling 65ft in a broad curtain, the waterfall can be almost as wide as it is tall during the rainy season. Despite its beauty, it is often overlooked by visitors so you can expect to see fewer people on this short trail.

Along the path, the moss-covered walls also have seasonal small waterfalls cascading down them, adding a little extra magic to the walk.

10. Winter Falls

A girl walking along the path on Trail of Ten Falls towards Winter Falls, surrounded by mossy green vegetation and autumn foliage
A view from the trail approaching the slender Winter Falls.

If you’re completing the entire Trail of Ten Falls Loop starting at South Falls, then Winter Falls will be your last waterfall (assuming you’ve gone clockwise around the loop!). As the name suggests, Winter Falls is only present during the rainier winter months. During the summer, it will likely be just a dribble of water or can even completely dry up. Therefore, if you’re visiting during the summer you can probably skip Winter Falls!

However, if you are visiting during wetter months, Winter Falls is worth the short walk. At 134ft it is the fourth highest waterfall in the park and is impressive when there is a substantial flow.

Looking for inspiration? Check out our Top Waterfall Quotes.

Hiking the Trail of 10 Falls in Silver Falls State Park

Long exposure photography of the Trail of Ten Falls with autumn leaves in the foreground.
A cascade along the Trail of Ten Falls.

The Trail of Ten Falls hike can be started from any of the four trailheads within Silver Falls State Park. While it can be completed as a 7.8-mile loop hike, you can also choose to just hike parts of the trail. If you have two vehicles, you can even park one at the South Falls trailhead and one at the North Falls trailhead to reduce your hike time but still allow you to visit all 10 waterfalls!

We will detail the various routes below to allow you to decide which is the best hike in Silver Falls State Park for you. You can even combine a couple of the options below to reduce your hike time while maximizing your waterfall viewing.

No matter which hike you decide to take, you’ll be in for a treat!

Trail of 10 Falls – Complete Loop

The top of South Falls surrounded by colorful autumn foliage at the start of the Trail of Ten Falls loop.
South Falls is the most popular starting point for the complete Trail of Ten Falls loop.
  • Distance: 7.8 miles 
  • Elevation Gain: ±1,568 ft
  • Type of Trail: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: South Falls, North Falls or Winter Falls
  • Waterfalls Visited: All 10 waterfalls

The complete Trail of Ten Falls loop, as the name suggests, will take you past all 10 waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park.

You can choose to start this loop trail at either the South Falls, North Falls, or Winter Falls trailheads and walk it clockwise or counterclockwise. The total distance and elevation gain will remain the same starting at any of these points. While it is also possible to begin the loop at the North Falls Day Use and Group Camp trailhead, this will add an additional 1 mile to the total hike and ±364 ft elevation gain.

The trail is easy to follow and well-signed throughout. The only area where we encountered some confusion was at the beginning of our hike, starting at South Falls, as you can join the Canyon Trail, Maple Ridge Trail, and Rim Trail from here. As long as you follow the signs for the Canyon Trail and South Falls, you’ll be just fine.

You can complete the loop in 2-3 hours. However, we’d recommend giving yourself the better part of a day to truly appreciate the grandeur of these mighty falls. Admittedly, we move much slower than most as we stop constantly to take photos, but it took us around 7 hours to complete the entire ten falls loop.

If you visit after heavy rainfall, you will likely have a few bonus waterfalls if you look up as you cross each bridge. We spotted at least 3 additional smaller waterfalls cascading down the hillsides. The views of these were all mostly obscured by greenery, but they were a pleasant bonus on the walk between the larger falls!

Trail of 10 Falls Alternative – North to South

North Falls as seen from between mossy trees along the Trail of 10 Falls.
North Falls tucked away amongst mossy trees.

If you have two vehicles, you have the option to leave one vehicle at the North Falls trailhead and one atSouth Falls, and complete the walk between the two. This eliminates approximately 2 miles of hiking and still allows you to visit all 10 waterfalls on the Trail of Ten Falls.

By removing Winter Falls, you can shorten the hike time further down to 5.1 miles. This is particularly worth considering if you’re visiting during the summer months or when rainfall is low as Winter Falls is somewhat seasonal, reducing to a trickle or drying up completely during summer months.

Planing a trip to Southern Oregon? Waterfall chasers will also appreciate our guide to Southern Oregon Waterfalls.

Trail of 10 Falls Alternative – Winter Falls Loop

The top of Middle North Falls with the sun above it and fall foliage surrounding it.
Don’t miss Middle North Falls on the Winter Falls Loop.

If a nearly 8-mile hike is a little too much for you and you do not have two vehicles for the “North to South” alternative mentioned, then consider the Winter Falls loop. This trail takes in seven of the ten waterfalls and reduces the hike distance by 3 miles. However, it does mean sacrificing viewings of Twin Falls, North Falls and Upper North Falls.

Personally, we found Twin Falls somewhat underwhelming, but both North Falls and Upper North Falls are exceptionally impressive. Therefore, we’d recommend also considering driving to the North Falls trailhead after completing the Winter Falls Loop to view these two waterfalls. This would add an extra 1.3 miles to the hike, but in our opinion, is absolutely worth it. The hike details for the North Falls and Upper North Falls are detailed below.

Trail of 10 Falls Alternative – Maple Ridge Loop

Lower South Falls at autumn on the Trail of Ten Falls.
Explore behind Lower South and South Fall on the Maple Ridge Loop.

The Maple Ridge Loop takes in both the South Falls and Lower South Falls along the Canyon Trail, before continuing back along the Maple Ridge Trail. While it is popular to complete this trail as a loop (as shown in the map above), unless you have a particular interest in hiking through the forest or just prefer loop trails, we would suggest considering an out and back option.

Rather than continuing past Lower South Falls to the Maple Ridge Trail, we’d suggest turning back at Lower South Falls. We didn’t find the Maple Ridge Trail to be particularly interesting and would’ve preferred to walk past the falls again as we found this route to be much more scenic. The out and back option increases the hike distance by only 0.2 miles, but has a slightly higher elevation gain at±515 ft.

Additionally, it is possible to just visit South Falls as a short 1 mile (±230 ft elevation gain) loop trail. To do this, you can cut back over the scenic bridge at the bottom of South Falls and follow the Canyon Trail back to the parking lot.

Trail of 10 Falls Alternative – North Falls and Upper North Falls

A girl in a yellow jacket in front of North Falls surrounded by colorful autumn foliage in the rain.
Explore North Falls and Upper North Falls for a short hike.

The North Falls and Upper North Falls are often missed by visitors who choose to complete one of the shorter loops. However, these falls were two of our favorites in the park. Even if you choose one of the shorter loops, we urge you to consider also adding the hike from the North Falls trailhead to these two falls.

It is essentially two out and back trails combined that take you to the base of Upper North Falls and behind North Falls, before returning to the parking lot.

You can further reduce this hike distance to just 0.75 miles if you wish to only visit North Falls. However, considering how short and easy the hike is to Upper North Falls we’d strongly recommend hiking both.

Planing a trip to Southern Oregon? Waterfall chasers will also appreciate our guide to Southern Oregon Waterfalls.

Other Things To Do In Silver Falls State Park

Fall colors along the creek in Silver Falls State Park.

While hiking to see the many waterfalls is the main thing to do in Silver Falls, it’s not the only thing!

There are over 35 miles of backcountry trails for mountain biking, hiking or horseback riding, as well as 4 miles of paved bike paths. Additionally, the South Falls Day Use Area offers a variety of amenities and facilities. Here you’ll find a swimming area, horseshoes pits, playground, picnic shelter, BBQ stands, off-lead area for dogs, and spacious lawn.

You can also find food and accommodation at the recently re-branded Smith Creek Village (previously Silver Falls Lodge). Be sure to stop by the Silver Falls Nature Store where you can find arts, crafts and souvenirs by local artisans.

For those visiting Silver Falls with kids, the North Falls Group Camp area boasts a fantastic nature-inspired playground. With three different play areas, it is ideal for children of all ages.

Photographing Waterfalls at Silver Falls State Park

Autumn Silver Falls State Park photography.

While it is possible to capture long exposure photographs of waterfalls on your iPhone using the Live Mode option, for the best possible photos you may want to consider a few key pieces of photography gear:

  • Camera: We use the Sony a7riii and have been in love with it ever since the first photo we took with it. However, beginners may wish to consider an entry level DSLR. This will allow you to start coming to grips with manual settings and to decide whether photography is something you enjoy enough to invest in.
  • Lens: The lens we use most frequently is the Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS as the zoom lens allows for the most diversity. We also often use the Laowa 15mm F2 for shots that require a wider angle. This was particularly helpful when photographing from behind some of the waterfalls, or for capturing the entirety of the taller falls.
  • Tripod: A tripod is essential if you want to create a long exposure waterfall image. When traveling, we use the Manfrotto Be Free as it’s lightweight and easy to carry on longer hikes. For times when we require something more stable such as in high-winds, we use the Artcise Carbon Fiber Tripod.
  • Filters: A Circular Polarizing (CPL) filter (CPL) or Neutral Density (ND) filter are very useful for allowing slower shutter speeds and for cutting glare on the water. The best CPL and ND filters we’ve found are the Quartzline from Polar Pro.
  • Rain cover: Considering how much rain Silver Falls get, plus spray from the waterfalls, you may want to consider a rain cover for your camera. Another simpler, and great option, is a colorful umbrella… not only does it provide protection for you and your gear from the rain but can add a pop of color to photos!
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths: You will want to bring several dry microfiber cloths to help clean your lens between shots. You will inevitably find plenty of spray getting onto the lens while photographing the waterfalls!

We have also put together a complete guide for photographing waterfalls where you can learn more about the equipment I use, composition and other techniques for capturing beautiful photos.

Wondering what camera gear you need for better photos? See our personal recommendations here: Best Camera Gear for Travel Photography

Where to Stay in Silver Falls State Park

Given its close proximity to Portland, Silver Falls is a popular day trip option. However, you can find camping and lodging both in the park and nearby. Within Silver Falls is the charming Smith Creek Village (formerly Silver Falls Lodge) which offers cabins, cottages, lodge rooms and ranches. Check the Smith Creek Village website for current rates and availability.

For those that are looking for camping in Silver Falls, the main campground features tent sites, RV hook-ups and cabins.

  • 52 electrical sites with water (18 sites open year-round). Starting from $28.
  • 45 tent sites with water nearby (seasonal May–Oct.). Starting from $19.
  • 14 cabins (7 pet friendly, open year-round). Starting from $48.

There are also two group sites and a horse campground. Reservations can be made online up to 6 months in advance through the Oregon State Park website.

If you’re looking for lodging nearby, there are some great options in Silverton. Both the Oregon Gardens Resort and the Silverton Inn & Suite, provide great options and are less than half-hour from Silver Falls.

Salem is the next closest larger city with ample accommodation options, located approximately 40 minutes from Silver Falls. Check here for accommodation rates and availability in Salem.

FAQs

When is the best time to visit Silver Falls State Park?

Autumn foliage photography surrounding North Falls in Silver Falls State Park, Oregon.
Autumn is a great time to visit Silver Falls State Park.

Silver Falls is beautiful year-round but is best visited in late fall through to spring and after heavy rainfall. Autumn is a spectacular time to visit Silver Falls State Park as many of the leaves change color providing a golden frame to the waterfalls.

If you’re looking to photograph the waterfalls, a cloudy day is actually ideal! This will help provide even light on the falls and help allow for longer shutter speeds to create dreamy, soft water.

Do you have to pay to go to Silver Falls State Park?

Yes, there is a $5 day parking fee. If you plan on visiting more State Parks in Oregon, consider purchasing an annual pass for $30. These can be bought on the Oregon State Parks website.

How long is the Silver Falls hike?

The most revered hike in Silver Falls is the Trail of Ten Falls. This is a 7.8 mile loop hike that takes you past 10 waterfalls. However, it is possible to take many alternative shorter hikes if preferred, as detailed in the hiking section of this guide.

How long does it take to hike Trail of Ten Falls?

A close up long exposure photograph of Lower South Falls along the Trail of Ten Falls.
Allow for plenty of time to explore the Trail of Ten Falls.

The Trail of Ten Falls hike is a 7.8-mile loop trail that takes 3-5 hours to complete. Ideally, plan for an entire day trip as there’s plenty to see here!

Is Trail of Ten Falls pet friendly?

Unfortunately, pets are not allowed on the Canyon Rim Trail, where most of the waterfalls are located. However, dogs are allowed on leash on the Rim and Upper North Falls trails that are part of the Ten Falls trail.

How many waterfalls are at Silver Falls?

There are ten waterfalls along the Trail of Ten Falls. During rainy months, other small cascades may appear along the canyon walls. Additionally, there is one bonus waterfall near South Falls; Frenchie Falls.

Can you swim in Silver Falls?

Swimming is not permitted at any of the waterfalls. However, there is a swimming area in the creek at South Falls Day Use Area.

Which waterfalls can you walk behind Silver Falls State Park?

A girl in a yellow jacket standing on a rock behind South Falls waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park Oregon.
South Falls is one of the four you can walk behind.

There are four waterfalls that you can walk behind in Silver Falls State Park; South Falls, Lower South Falls, Middle North Falls and North Falls.

Related Guides

We have a variety of guides to the Pacific Northwest that you may also find helpful, as well as instructional guides for learning photography.

Additionally, you are welcome to browse our Oregon professional photography gallery for prints and more inspiration ?

Instructional Guides to Photography

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2 Comments

  1. Yvonne
    November 2, 2021 / 10:18 pm

    Hey Adam, beautifully written! Your photos make me want to jump in!
    How safe are these trails from creatures and humans?

    • November 6, 2021 / 8:29 pm

      Super safe Yvonne!! Its a very popular trail and well maintained 🙂

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**All photos contained in this photography-based travel blog are copyright of Adam Marland & Sophie Clapton. 
They are not to be used for any purpose without the expressed, written consent of their owners.**