While Tatoosh Creek doesn't have a large drainage area, and maps certainly don't make it out to be a significant stream, how a waterfall this impressive could have been forgotten over time is well beyond me. Were the falls not visible from anywhere but their foot this would be understandable, but Tatoosh Falls can be easily seen from a pullout along the Ricksetter Point loop road. I first noticed the falls in the late 90's, but I wasn't aware that they were historically named until I found a digitized copy of Eugene Ricksetter's 1907 map of Mount Rainier National Park, which marked the falls by name. Considering how significant the falls are and seeing how many backcountry waterfalls have retained their historical labels over the years, I am still surprised a waterfall of this size, located this close to the main corridor of the park could go so unnoticed for so long. From the pullout along the Ricksetter loop road, the falls appear as a pair of partially obstructed horsetails skipping down the opposite valley. What isn't obvious until you view the falls from the bottom is how wide the formation is - or at least how wide it can get at high water. From the base of the falls, the upper tier is hidden from view, but the lower tier explodes 160 feet down a terraced wall, stretching as much as 75 feet wide at high flows. I have visited this waterfall twice at absolute peak flow, but I imagine the falls are still quite respectable in the dry season as well (fortunately, being fed by the larger of the Reflection Lakes, there is always a little volume in the creek).
- Tatoosh Falls is the Historical name of this waterfall.
- Known Alternate Names: Tatoosh Creek Falls
Tatoosh is a word common in many northwest Native American tribal tongues, all of which have a meaning along the lines of "thunderbird who shook the mountains with its flapping"Â, or more vaguely, just "thunderbird"Â. I speculate that the name was first applied to the mountains (Tatoosh Range, Tatoosh Peak), followed by Tatoosh Creek, and the falls were likely named after the creek. It is not known when and by whom the falls were discovered, but I would surmise that Henry Carter, blazer of the early Paradise Trail, was among the first westerners to see the falls. The falls appear to have first been documented on Eugene Ricksetter's 1907 map of the park.
Tatoosh Falls is located south of Highway 706, between Ricksetter Point and Narada Falls, within Mount Rainier National Park. Roadside vantages of the falls can be had from the final turnout on the right side of the Ricksetter Point loop road. Accessing the falls on foot requires well-honed navigation and map reading skills, and a willingness to do moderate cross-country travel. If you lack any of these, do not attempt to visit this waterfall. The easiest access to the falls is to hike counter-clockwise along the Wonderland Trail from Narada Falls for 8/10 of a mile to the Paradise Camp. From here, head off trail, paralleling the Paradise River and staying low, in between the hillside and the river, for about 1/3 of a mile until you reach Tatoosh Creek. If you hit a streambed before you see the falls, walk up the streambed until you reach the base of a seasonal segment of the falls before working further west to the base of the main falls.