Otter Creek heads in a modest basin along the ridge running between Dog Mountain and Cascade Mountain which divides the Taylor River drainage from that of the Miller River and Lennox Creek. In a little over one linear mile the drainage loses just over 3,600 feet in elevation, with only about 1,600 feet of that accounting for the change between the high point along the ridge and the lower end of the uppermost part of the catchment basin along the ridgeline. Below this point Otter Creek begins to conglomerate from numerous tiny rivulets percolating out of broad talus fields, and as it gains more and more volume the creek begins to cut a wider and wider channel through the sub-alpine growth in the basin.
Beginning at about the 3,600 foot mark, the creek has formed a constant waterslide which sheets down the narrow, solid bedrock gully carved into the mountainside, and then at about the 2,900 foot level it breaks out into a huge, broad channel of solid granite where the water begins sheeting out in wide, pulsating flows. For the next 1,200 vertical feet, all the way down the mountainside to tiny little Lipsy Lake (itself really a glorified puddle), the bulk of Otter Falls is formed. Because of the lower angle of descent (alternating between 40 and 60 degrees for the most part), and the density of the forest downstream of Lipsy Lake and along the Snoqualmie Lake Trail, only the final 502-feet of the falls can be easily seen - though windows through the trees offer views of parts of the upper stretches in some places.
Part of what makes Otter Falls so difficult to pin down with any sort of certainty is there is no clear cut point where the creek transitions from simply a cascading stream into a sliding waterfall. It could be argued that this takes place around the 3,600 foot mark where the creek begins to slide down the solid bedrock, but since travel into the upper basin appears exceedingly difficult due to thick brush, it may be quite hard to verify whether this is the case or not. The circa 2,900 foot level is the most visually apparent high point of the falls since this is where many of the streams which come together out of the vegetated basin and into the granite channel, so this is the point we have opted to consider the top of the falls until more detailed surveying can confirm whether it should or should not be moved further upstream.
Otter Creek additionally exhibits a phenomena which we like to refer to as "the Yosemite Effect" - essentially the propensity of the drainage to expend its groundwater at a much faster rate due to the significant amount of bedrock and a lack of deep soil covering the majority of the basin. Heavy winter snow falls in the area and the falls flow consistently throughout the winter months, roaring to life during the freshet between late April and late June, but once the snow has fully melted from the basin Otter Creek dries out completely and will not return to life until the winter rains begin the following fall. This is in direct contrast to the neighboring drainages of Anderson Creek and Big Creek, both of which flow all year. In low snow years, Otter Falls has been known to dry out entirely by the end of May when it usually is flowing at its peak.
- Otter Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.
- Known Alternate Names: Otter Slide Falls
Otter Falls has been known by its current name for decades, likely dating back to when the Taylor River Road was first built back in the 1930s. The falls are often referred to as Otter Slide Falls because it isn't viewed as a true waterfall by some people, rather a long waterslide of sorts (and this isn't necessarily an untrue sentiment).
Otter Falls is found along the Snoqualmie Lake Trail in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie area near North Bend. Exit Interstate 90 at Edgewick Road east of North Bend, turn north past the Truck Stop, then turn right onto Dorothy Lake Road, which becomes Taylor River Road, and then ultimately the forest service maintained Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road #56. Follow the Middle Fork Road - which turns to gravel at the Mailbox Peak trailhead at the 2.9 mile mark, and becomes notoriously bumpy thereafter for much of the year - for 12 miles to the bridge over the Taylor River. Just past the bridge stay straight where a sign points to the Snoqualmie Lake Trail and go another half-mile to the end of the road at the trailhead. Hike the former logging road turned trail, crossing Marten Creek at the 2.7 mile mark on a footbridge, then Anderson Creek at 3.2 miles where a ford is necessary (water may be shin deep in the spring if rock-hopping isn't possible), and finally Otter Creek at the four mile mark, also via an unbridged crossing where getting your feet wet might be necessary. About 300 feet beyond Otter Creek, look for carins along the trail, and a tree with "Otter Falls" carved in its trunk marking the trail which climbs up the small hill to the left and leads to the shore of Lipsy Lake at the base of the falls several hundred feet further.