The Muddy River harbors several waterfalls as it cascades off the slopes of Mount St. Helens, but until the May 18, 1980 eruption most were very difficult, if not impossible to access. The eruption melted the Shoestring Glacier and sent a massive lahar surging down the valley, which scoured away vegetation and stripped topsoil back to reveal the nuances of the canyon in full. Three decades later, the canyon has made great strides towards recovering from the devastation that was wreaked in 1980.
As waterfalls go, this set isn't nearly as impressive or interesting as the other falls in Lava Canyon, viewing the Muddy River coursing down the gorge from almost a hundred feet above on a shaky (but entirely safe) suspension bridge is one of the signature experiences of visiting Lava Canyon. Upstream of the bridge this triple set of falls can be seen sliding down chutes in the bedrock in drops of 13 and 24 feet, with the third drop of 19 feet found directly in front of and below the bridge. Several logs were formerly trapped in the third drop, but the record-setting floods in 2006 got rid of them with ease (as well as some of the vegetation along the canyon walls).
When visiting the waterfalls of Lava Canyon, extreme caution should be exercised. There have been dozens of fatalities as a result of visitors edging too close to the lip of the gorge, or splashing in the river and being suddenly swept away and over one of the waterfalls.
- Triple Falls is the Unofficial name of this waterfall.
- Known Alternate Names: Triplet Falls
Greg Plumb calls this waterfall Triplet Falls in the 4th edition his "Waterfall Lovers Guide" books. It has never been officially named so either reference works.
Lava Canyon is located on the southeast side of Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. From Interstate 5 at Woodland, drive east along SR 503 for 35 miles, or 12 1/2 miles west of the Pine Creek Information station along FSR 90, to FSR 83. Turn and follow FSR 83 to its end at the trailhead in 11 miles, following the signs to Lava Canyon. The first half mile of the trail to the viewpoint of Upper Lava Canyon Falls is handicap accessible. From the end of the paved trail, a loop on either side of the river can be taken to the suspension bridge in another 1/5 of a mile which will overlook this waterfall. The Lava Canyon trail has periodically been closed due to flood damage or slides, and if closures are encountered, please heed warnings and do not proceed down the trail.