Recent New and Latest Information

Thus begins the annual 100 year flood. Again.

January 07, 2009

Forecasters are suggesting this one is going to be bad. The Cowlitz River is predicted to obliterate its record level at Randle but not at Packwood. This means there will probably be equally absurd amounts of water coming down the Muddy / Clear Forks as there is coming down the Cispus River and for those of you who paid attention, the Cispus drainage did not fair well during the 2005 floods. At the moment the Skykomish Gauge at Gold Bar is sitting over 53,000 cfs and the Snoqualmie below the falls is about to hit 50,000 cfs and we're only halfway into this thing according to the weather predictions. If you can make it to North Bend today or tomorrow, Snoqualmie, Twin and Weeks Falls ought to be quite the spectacle.

Future Disruptions

December 12, 2008

This is an advanced notice that I plan on doing some major database maintenance in the next month or two and there may be a period of a day or two when this site is unavailable.

Right now I've got separate databases for the Northwest Waterfall Survey and the World Waterfall Database. Because the data in NWS is going to be duplicated almost entirely on WWD, its easier for me to just maintain one source rather than have to copy and paste everything. This site won't be shut down, I will just need to point the database connections and SQL queries to the other database, but I will have to slice up my code a bit to do so.

I don't know exactly when I will be doing this, but I am getting close to the point where I will begin to fill the new WWD tables with content, so it'll likely happen before the end of January. I will post further warnings when its coming.

Fridays Sunset

December 07, 2008

To those of you living basically anywhere from about Everett to as far south as Portland or maybe even Salem, you may have noticed the "words simply are incapable of explaining how awesome that was" sunset last night (12/5). The color itself was far and away among the absolute best I have ever seen, but the factor that really set it apart was the three stacks of huge lenticular clouds lofting above Mount Rainier (and apparently over Adams, Hood and maybe St. Helens as well).

Well I live about 10 minutes from downtown Seattle and I have a partial view of Rainier from my living room, so when I saw the clouds just sitting there, waiting to be photographed, I hurried over to Kerry Park, which provides maybe the epitomal view of Seattle, and set up to shoot sunset. I've seen some good ones in my life, but this may be the absolute best I've personally witnessed. I usually shoot landscapes, but I've wanted to shoot some cityscapes for a while now, and as many places in the wilderness I've been to have blown my mind, I think this image may be the shot I am to date most proud of. Just wanted to share it with my readers.

Missing Pictures and a boot covered in Fail

December 01, 2008

I just noticed I hadn't posted a picture of Benham Falls in the Iron Creek drainage in the Gifford Pinchot area from back in June, so that's now online. Weather today was pretty damn nice (had to be at least 55 degrees out) and since I'd been cooped up in my apartment for the last week for one reason or another, I had to try and do something.

Aaron Young went and found a path leading to the lofty upper waterfall on the unnamed stream feeding Suiattle Falls near Darrington, and that's one which been pestering me for a long time, so I had to take a stab at it. Well I somehow got in my head that Aaron told me that the trail he found was on the right side of the creek and not the left. So I started scrambling up the hillside, occasionally finding traces of wear that may have been caused by people. One or two flags here and there egged me on, but after nearly 1 1/2 hours of veggie-belaying up the mountainside, I noticed I had almost climbed ABOVE the whole waterfall and immediately knew I was on the wrong side of the creek. Dammit.

The resulting descent was much faster, however it involved many branches in the face, almost losing one of my boots to a hidden puddle of leather gobbling mud and wading through a thicket of blackberry bushes in order to get back to my car. So with the weather turning to crap for the foreseeable future, it looks like 2008 will be sending me off with a nice wet layer of Fail all over.

Not like its the first time.

Flood Aftermath

November 16, 2008

This one wasn't terribly bad, but there has been some moderate damage in Mount Rainier National Park. The Carbon River Road is closed indefinitely outside of the park boundary (and are we really surprised?) due to an apparent 200 foot long washout of the width of the road and then some. The Nisqually Road is closed for another week so crews can shore up the road around Kautz Creek and divert it back into its former channel and away from the road.

Sounds like the worst damage might have been due to the Ohanapecosh River going apeshit (again), which damaged the suspension bridge at Grove of the Patriarchs and if it was that high, it may have ended up taking out the bridge above Ohanapecosh Falls again (though I don't know if it was ever replaced after the 2006 floods - pretty sure it was). Hopefully there aren't new logs pinned in the falls after the floods finally cleaned out the old ones.

Here we go again

November 12, 2008

Right on time, Washington's annual November 100 year flood is currently on. The Nisqually entrance to Mount Rainier National Park is currently closed because Kautz Creek is flowing 6 inches deep over the road (maybe it'll move itself back to its old streambed and spare blowing out the huge culverts they just installed a couple years ago).

The Skykomish River is currently sitting at 65,000 cfs at Gold Bar, which means Sunset and Eagle Falls are most likely moving at about 40,000 cfs at the moment, which I can't even fathom. South Fork of the Snoqulamie River is above 6500 cfs, so Twin Falls should be absolutely insane right now, Snoqualmie Falls itself may actually be inaccessible.

Unfortunately I can't get close enough to these things to go take pictures because the roads are all flooded well before the waterfalls. Plus I need new tires and I don't want to hydroplane off the side of the road.

Everyone pray to the weather gods that the roads and trails stay relatively intact this time.

Lava Canyon is Accessible again

November 08, 2008

Just found out that FR 83 on the south side of Mt. St. Helens has been repaired and is open all the way to its end at the Lava Canyon / Ape Canyon trailhead. The Lava Canyon Trail is said to be open as far as the suspension bridge but the Forest Service website still says the "river has shifted its course" and presumably that is why the trail is still closed beyond the bridge. I'm really not sure where the trail could have washed out due to the river shifting course in the canyon unless the river moved to the left below Middle Lava Canyon Falls such that it blew out the ladder (which I don't see happening anyway). Snow is falling pretty steadily at the higher elevations now anyway, so its only a matter of days, maybe two weeks at most, before 83 is closed for the season anyway. Lava Canyon is very high up on my hit list for next summer, so we'll find out after the snow melts.

Also for those of you paying attention, its been a wet couple of days in Western Washington. We're in the midst of our first major flood of the season and while I don't think any records are being shattered, the Snoqualmie River certainly got high, peaking at 28,300 cfs at the gauge below Snoqualmie Falls yesterday. Nowhere near its record levels though. In fact, exactly a year ago yesterday, it high 55,000 cfs. The record remains firmly established during the 1991 floods when it produced an astonishing 78,800 cfs. Thats basically half of the average volume of the Columbia River at the Tri Cities.

A Bipolar Day

November 05, 2008

I'm generally feeling pretty good right now. While I could have cared less who won the Governors race in Washington, I'm just tickled that Barrack Obama will be our next president. Nothing against McCain (everything against Palin), he's one of the few Republicans I would actually vote, but like so many out there, I feel that Obama is just a stronger leader. If nothing else, it'll be nice to have a president that sounds like he knows what hes doing.

But glom on top of that the fact that the Sound Transit Expansion proposition is passing with flying colors and Tim Eyman's "Traffic Congestion reduction" initiative was dealt the proverbial bitch slap just made my day. I'm in a bit of a state of shock that California actually agreed to ban Gay Marriage, as progressive of a state as they claim to be. I just don't get how people can so overwhelmingly support the first minority president then turn around and willingly choose to discriminate against another demographic.

Anyway, enough politics. The big downer now is that the hiking season is officially done. The snow level in the Cascades has dropped to 2500 feet in the last couple days and the snow is coming down hard now. Big storms are expected in the next couple days that will start bringing the rivers up and closing roads in the mountains, so waterfall hunting season is all but done for the year. I had maybe my best season yet, but yet again wasn't able to get to the big boys (Sulphide, Green Lake, Berdeen and Depot Creek) in the North Cascades. Of course I'll plan on making another attempt at at least some of those next year, but we'll see.

I did find a few holes I didn't realize I had left in my data and I got a handful of falls online today that had been left out over the last couple months of updating - one dating back to March even! Oh right, I completely forgot about Louis Creek too. My last major backpacking weekend of the year involved a horribly miscalculated attempt to get up on Butterfly Butte near Mt. Clark in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, and we bailed after the first night. But this did allow me to get to Louis Creek Falls, which stands at over 1700 feet tall and is quite impressive despite its small streamflow. Its not a hike most will be able to undertake - involving a brutal 8 mile hike (one way), but its worth it.

Right now I'm working on redesigning the World Waterfall Database for the most part, but I'm also going to get the Northwest Waterfall Blog moved over to Wordpress sometime in the next couple months, so soon you'll all be able to comment on my random babbling. Stay tuned.

Waterfall Bagging with Greg and Roger

October 01, 2008

When I got home from my first trip to Walupt Creek Falls and got my images in order, I sent an email to Greg Plumb, author of "A Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest" about it because I knew he had been jonesing to see it for himself for a long time. My telling him this actually pushed him over the edge and he bought a plane ticket to make a short trip out this way and as a result, we met up and went waterfall hunting for three days in early September.

I drove down to Portland to meet him after he had been through the Abiqua Creek drainage near Salem and we met up with another of Greg's fans, a fellow by the name of Roger Amundsen from Kelso. After the initial formalities and discussing our initial method of attack, and taking about 6 wrong turns while trying to get back onto 205, we were on our way through the Columbia Gorge to Husum to scope out Husum Falls, but more importantly Rattlesnake Falls.

I'd seen video of Rattlesnake Falls being run by some local hairboater over on Oregon Kayaking, and Greg had said he saw a picture of it in one of the rafting outfitters in Husum, so we were both quite interested to search it out. Finding the proper roads turned out to be the hardest part in locating the falls. While we were waiting for Greg's GPS to sync with his mapping software on his laptop, we sort of overshot the area we though the road would be in and headed to Glendale to shoot Outlet and Wonder Falls, then tried again for Rattlesnake Falls on the way back to Husum.

After all three of us were delighted with what we saw at Outlet and Wonder Falls (I had seen neither before and Roger hadn't seen Wonder Falls), we spotted what looked like the correct road to get up and over and into the Rattlesnake drainage. The falls and road system are located on what appear to be BLM lands, and while the roads are in decent shape, the signing is horrible and the placement on the maps is nowhere near accurate, so we were pretty much shooting in the dark trying to find the way. Eventually after only two wrong turns, we hit a berm in the road that seemed to put us within about 2/3 of a mile of the falls, so we ditched the vehicles and set out on foot.

Fortunately the road continued on the opposite side of the berm and was easily followed through alternating woods and meadows as we approached the canyon. When we got as close as we thought we could get, we crossed through the woods to the canyon expecting to hear at least a little dribble of water but were greeted with silence. Soon a gully came into view, then a cliff and then...a big pool at the foot of a bone-dry waterfall. Bummer, but not surprising at all given the small drainage area of Rattlesnake Creek at this point and that the low elevation area it drains doesn't receive much precipitation at all. We opted to not bother with Lower Rattlesnake Falls half a mile downstream since there was no water.

After bumping our way back down to Husum we proceeded north to Trout Lake, then west on the Carson-Guller Road to try to find a couple falls flowing off the east side of Lemei Rock in the Indian Heaven area. Turns out that area either doesn't receive much rainfall either, or its too porous to allow surface water to flow that late in the year, because one of the falls was dry and we didn't bother to investigate the other because the creek was about as low as possible without it being dry. So we continued onward, stopping at Panther Creek Falls to see what the new trail and viewing deck looked like, then hauled up and over Oldman Pass and on our way to Packwood.

Before the daylight ran out, we swung by Upper Curly Creek Falls because it was close, easy to get to and Greg hadn't seen it. I was more interested in finding what I suspected was a much bigger waterfall just downstream. We scrambled to the bottom of Upper Curly Creek Falls easily, and I could see roughly where my target was, but there was a lot of gnarly brush in the way. Greg and Roger opted out of this one and headed back to the vehicles while I smashed my way down to see what I could see. After about 10 minutes, I reached the top of what I'm calling McClellan Falls, which appears to be a HUGE 150+ footer roughly comparable to the falls on Rush Creek, but due to fading light and my not having a rope, I couldn't get to the bottom for any pictures. That ended up doing it for Day 1 and we hoofed it as fast as we could to Packwood to try and get there before all the restaurants were closed.

Next day we headed out early to the primary target of the trip - Walupt Creek Falls. A quick, bumpy drive from Packwood to Walupt Lake and we were set, starting off at the Walupt Horse Camp. Following the old road I found in July, we hit Walupt Creek quickly and crossed easily. Water levels were down noticeably from when I was there earlier in the year, but not to a detrimental point. Once through the brushy area around the creek we were off smoothly through the open woods along the creek, passed the Upper Falls and then reached the canyon rim. I think at this point I might have caught Greg drooling a bit. Upon arriving at the beach at the bottom of the falls there was much 'ooo-ing' and 'aaah-ing' at the size of the falls. What really made my day was the water level was down enough that it was very easy to climb up the slabby lower part of the falls and get up close with it, but there was still enough water that the falls looked full.

After poking around on the falls for about an hour, waiting for the clouds to cooperate for better light, Roger and I decided to try and make it up the Cispus Canyon to Slip and Slide Falls while Greg did his thing at Walupt. So dawning our sandals we plunged into the much colder waters of the Cispus River and started heading upstream. Unfortunately the smooth rock under the Cispus wasn't nearly as cooperative as that under Walupt Creek, and we slipped and skidded our way up the river at times. One particularly hairy spot had us crossing the river over solid bedrock where the water was shin deep and flowing pretty damn fast. Fortunately we made it across and eventually made it up to the falls, which turned out to be nice but not nearly as big as I had thought them to be. About an hour later we made it back to the beach to see Greg had gone upstream to document the upper falls, so we headed out.

Since we had killed half the day at Walupt Creek, the rest of the day was left to easy stuff, so I took them to Gail Falls on the Cispus River, we stopped at Twin Creek Falls and scouted some potential falls on Dry Creek near Packwood before calling it a day.

The final day was to consist of the most ambitious adventure, a bike ride up the Westside Road in Mount Rainier National Park to Denman Falls, which had to that point received very very little documentation. We pulled out of Packwood at about 9am and chugged to Eatonville where Greg and Roger were able to procure a pair of bikes for the day (I had mine with me) then it was back to the park.

The Westside Road had been said in the past to be very bike friendly, but that was before the floods of 2006, and now its very bike friendly as long as you can carry your bike the first 3/4 mile. We were able to peddle past the gate for about 2 minutes before hitting the first washout, which required walking the bikes over Fish Creek. Another short bit of peddling (and pushing uphill) and we came to the big washout where Tahoma Creek literally consumed half a mile of the former roadbed. Not even halfway across the washout Roger gave up with his ailing bike and opted to stay behind while Greg and I went on to Denman Falls.

Once through the washout, the road starts climbing up to Round Pass and though I was a good clip ahead of Greg for pretty much the whole trek, I still had to walk my bike up the hill. Going down the other side took all of about 5 minutes before I had to push it up the next hill on the other side of the Puyallup River. Soon I reached St. Andrews Creek and decided to refuel with a nasty sandwich while waiting for Greg to catch up.

Once Greg appeared, we stashed the bikes out of site and followed the marked Denman Falls trail downstream to the viewpoint only to find it partially obscured by a few small trees. What piqued my interest more than anything, however, was a small sign blocking an obvious trail leading away from the falls in a downstream direction that stated the trail was not maintained. Being that there were three more falls downstream, I just had to investigate since I had plenty of time. So I gave Greg one of my two-way radios and started off down the trail. It was remarkably easy to follow for the first 5 minutes or so, though it clearly hasn't seen use, but it soon became really brushy and fallen trees quicky appeared and things got pretty ugly.

But...after half an hour of smashing down the hill, I heard falling water. I had said to myself I was just going to try and get to Larrupin Falls because it looked steeper and more dangerous to go further downstream, but after a little more smashing and stumbling, I eventually made my way to the bottom of Larrupin Falls only to discover that I was standing closer to Ethania Falls, the next one down and not 100 feet away from me, than I was to Larrupin Falls.

So not only did I get to Denman Falls, which almost nobody ever goes to, I got to two other falls which I'm pretty sure have been seen by no more than a dozen people in the last 75 years, and discovered a long lost trail in the process. Greg radioed me just as I was about to head back up letting me know the brush was too much for him and that he was going back up. In the process of returning myself, my radio jumped out of my pocket and now is growing moss somewhere near Larrupin Falls. The ride back down to the trailhead was ridiculously fun and totally worth biking back to Round Pass just to do again.

With about an hour of light to kill for the rest of the day, we poked around the park briefly then I had to bail out to get back to work the following day (only to quit my job a week later). Good times were had by all and I was really glad to have finally had a chance to meet the man who basically seeded my obsession with waterfalls with his books. Hopefully next time Greg shows up out here, I can show him some of the juggernauts he's been missing up in the North Cascades.

Almost Done!

August 25, 2008

Well its taken over a month, but I'm almost caught up to my update backlog. I've got everything entered from my outing to the Lewis River drainage from July when I was able to bag several new falls, including the elusive, lofty and frankly one of the hardest falls that I've ever gone after, Snagtooth Falls. It was a total of 9 1/2 miles of pure muscle-cramping, leg scraping, pine-needles-down-my-neck, energy draining hell. But the falls are over 300 feet tall, so my inner masochist generally won the argument with my legs.

The only updates left are the take from August, which includes the fruits of a 3-day outing with Greg Plumb, author of "A Waterfall Lovers Guide to the Pacific Norhwest", which I will post more about later. Lets just say it was a very productive outing and a pleasure to meet the man after all these years.

On a more personal note, there may actually be more content coming this way this year than I had anticipated a month ago. Why? Because I quit my day job and have shed the shackles of a time frame limited to two days per week, at the most, I could spend hiking. Of course, as soon as I left my job, the weather turned to shit and I've basically been wallowing in my apartment for the last week and a half working on projects that can pay the bills in the meantime. I anticipate I'll have pretty much the entire month of September free, so I'll probably be out in the mountains for 20 of the 30 days of the month as long as the weather is good, and a trip to New England to visit family and go romp around those meager lumps they call mountains with my cohort Dean Goss for a week or so. After that I'm sure I'll be back to the grind, but the season will be over by then. All in all, its shaping up to be one of the most productive waterfall-bagging years I've ever had.

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