Deer Falls

Snohomish County, Washington

Detailed Info

Deer Falls is both the largest waterfall along the North Fork Skykomish River, and perhaps the most infuriating. The falls are found at the head of an impressive 125-foot deep canyon found just a few dozen yards from the National Forest Road 63 which leads to several popular trailheads just over a mile further upstream, yet the canyon and its impressive falls remain hidden in relative obscurity. This wasn't always the case though, the falls were at one time featured in guidebooks and even marked on a select few maps by name. The popular Trips and Trails vol.1 published in the late 60's distinctly featured Deer Falls as a destination, noting that the National Forest Service once actually maintained the trail leading to the vista of the falls. However after the logging road which crossed the river downstream of the falls was decommissioned and its bridge removed, the trail was presumably mothballed and quickly fell into disrepair.

At Deer falls the North Fork hurtles over the lip of the canyon in a narrow stream before impacting on a small ledge, causing the water to explode outward in a huge booming roar, falling 84 feet into a massive amphitheater coated head to toe in moss. Below the falls the river flows through a section of the canyon so narrow that there is no way to pass upstream at river level, thus limiting views from downstream to a considerable distance away.

A word of warning about accessing Deer Falls; though the route in is not very difficult at all, the final descent to where the falls can be viewed is rather steep, so those without sure footing are urged to think twice about attempting to descend to the river to view the falls. Additionally, do not attempt to wade out into the river unless it is running at its absolute lowest levels. The water is glacial, very cold, very swift, and there are multiple potentially deadly features downstream (Lower Deer Falls among them).

History and Naming

Deer Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.

The name of the falls, while seemingly rather generic, has been in use for quite a long time, and is officially recognized by the forest service and the county, among other institutions. The specific origin of the name is not known, but one can probably make a fairly generic guess.

Photo Tips

Should clear views of the falls be found, this appears to be a rather scenic waterfall. The color of the North Fork Skykomish River seems to be extra blue here, and the spray from the falls has induced copious amounts of moss to grow on the canyon walls, ensuring a very green composition. The falls face more or less west, but enclosed in the deep canyon, chances of sunlight actually striking the waterfall are fairly slim.

Location & Directions

Coordinates:   47.92132, -121.29779
Elevation:   2050 feet
USGS Map:   Blanca Lake 7 1/2"

Deer Falls is found near the end of the North Fork Skykomish Road just outside of the Wild Sky Wilderness. Due to the washout of the Index-Galena Road in 2006, access to this waterfall requires driving over Jack Pass (which is usually snowbound until mid to late May). Take Highway 2 to the town of Skykomish, and continue east for three-quarters of a mile, then turn north onto Beckler River Road (National Forest Road 65). The Beckler Road climbs 12.6 miles to Jack Pass (turning to gravel at the Raging River bridge after 7 miles). At the pass, a large open gravel pit type area, the main road bends to the left with two other roads splitting off hard left and right (don't take either). Continue downhill to cross the North Fork Skykomish River and meet the North Fork Skykomish Road where pavement is encountered again, 15 miles from Highway 2. At this intersection, turn right where a sign indicates NFR 63. Again on gravel, continue along Road 63 for another 2-3/4 miles and watch carefully for an overgrown road branching to the right - the second such road after crossing the concrete bridge over Goblin Creek. Park here and walk down the overgrown road for about one-fifth of a mile to where the old bridge used to cross the river. At this point look for the old trail heading off to the left in the woods. Its not terribly obvious from the old road, but once its located its still fairly easy to follow (though a bit brushy in places). The old trail runs only about 500 feet upstream before dropping steeply down to the river at the mouth of the gorge - expect lots of prickly bushes here. The falls can be seen upstream from river level while standing on some rocks, but the view is somewhat limited when the water level is high.

View this location in Google Earth
Deer Falls is marked with the large icon in the center of the map. Up to ten additional waterfalls (if any) may be marked as well, with links below.

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By The Numbers

The information presented in this table is meant to help identify and clarify the physical aspects of the waterfall for comparative purposes. While we try to ensure this information is as accurate as possible, sometimes it will prove necessary to either estimate or flat out guess at certain characteristics where either enough information isn't readily available, is not known, or we were not able to confirm a given trait upon surveying. This information may be changed at any given time to ensure accuracy.

Total Height

The Total Height listed for the waterfall represents the difference in elevation from the top of the uppermost drop, to the bottom of the lowermost drop of the waterfall, including all stretches of interstitial stream in between. Stream between two tiers of a waterfall is counted in its overall height regardless of whether or not that section of the stream would be legitimately considered a waterfall on its own right, were it to be isolated. Waterfalls with only one drop will of have the height of only the single drop listed here.

Tallest Drop

The Tallest Drop figure represents the height of the largest single drop within a multi-stepped waterfall. Waterfalls with only one drop will have the total height of the waterfall repeated here.

Num of Drops

The Number of Drops in a waterfall is a tally of the total number of distinct drops which make up the waterfall. Stretches of interstitial stream in between two or more distinct drops of a single waterfall are NOT considered to be distinct drops of the waterfall unless the section of stream in question would otherwise qualify as a waterfall were it to be isolated.

Avg Width

The Average Width of the waterfall represents the breadth of the waterfall from bank to bank under typical flow conditions, or if the waterfall has been Cataloged, under the conditions which it was most thoroughly surveyed. Often this number will be approximated because of a lack of approachability to many waterfalls. We often utilize Google Earth to measure the width (where imagery is of sufficient quality and resolution to allow it.

Maximum Width

Maximum Width represents a hypothetical measurement of roughly how wide a waterfall could get during peak streamflow or flood conditions. For smaller waterfalls, this figure will generally not differ much from the Average Width measurement, but for broader waterfalls - especially those that feature a crest that isn't constricted - this figure can at times be consideraby larger. Like the Average Width measurement, this measurement will take into account the difference in width at the top and bottom of the waterfall as much as possible, but will often be made based on the width of the crest of th falls alone.


The Pitch of a waterfall is an estimated - often very roughly - measure of the average slope or steepness of a waterfall. The Pitch figure only takes into account sections of stream which are actively falling. Pools or stretches of level stream in between two or more successive drops of the falls will not factor in this figure. As an example, a waterfall which features two truly free-falling leaps separated by several dozen yards of flat stream will have a Pitch of 90 degrees. Similarly, a waterfall with two drops separated by a pool, one with a true free-falling drop, and one with a Horsetail type fall will average the two, so while the Plunging drop has a Pitch of 90 degrees, if the Horsetail drop has a Pitch of 45 degrees, the total Pitch will be roughly 67 degrees.


The Run of a waterfall is a measurement representing the total linear distance on the ground between the top and bottom of a waterfall. This figure is not often easy to establish with a high degree of precision and as such will often be estimated. Waterfalls with a longer Run will usually either be less steep, often cascading type waterfalls, or will feature multiple steps separated by shorter stretches of a more gradual gradient streambed.


The system of classification of waterfall forms we use is a heavily modified derivative of the classifications outlined by Greg Plumb in his "Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest" books. While plumb uses eight distnct forms, we wanted further granularity and opted to break down the hierarchy twofold: first based on the overall pitch of the waterfall, and then based on what shape the fall takes as it makes its descent. There are five primary Categories of falls in this system: Plunge, Horsetail, Steep Cascades, Shallow Cascades, and Rapids. Additional deliniation is then applied depending on characteristics such as the breadth of the falls, whether it splits into two or more channels, whether it falls in multiple successive drops, etc. For more information on our waterfall form classifications, see the Help page.


The watershed which a waterfall occurs within, if it is specified, will be based on the ultimate distributary watercourse to the ocean. For example, Washington's Palouse Falls occurs along the Palouse River - which is a tributary to the Snake River, which is itself a tributary to the Columbia River, which ultimately enters the Pacific Ocean, so Palouse Falls would then fall within the Columbia River watershed. Streams which empty directly into the ocean, or into a minor basin which then empties to the ocean will often have this field left blank.


The name of the watercourse which the waterfall occurs along. If the watercourse is not known to have an officially or colloquially recognized name, this field is left blank.

Avg Volume

The volume of water present in the stream at the location of the waterfall. This is often the most difficult figure to pin down because accurately measuring streamflow is not a simple process. We will rely on USGS data as much as possible, and attempt to take into account seasonal fluctuations in stream levels if possible. There is no guarantee that this figure will be accurate, and in cases where there is no USGS data to use, it may be a very, very rough estimate at best.


If known, the primary source of the watercourse which produces the waterfall will be listed here. This is helpful in determining whether a waterfall may flow more consistently during certain periods of the year - streams which originate in Springs, Lakes, or Glaciers will often flow more consistently throughout the year than those fueled by simply Runoff. The source of the stream may also be either unknown or undetermined.

Flow Consistency

A rough estimation of how many months out of the year the stream which produces the waterfall will actually hold water. The vast majority of waterfalls featured on this website will technically be truly perennial waterfalls (those that flow all year long), but some may see their flow dwindle greatly in the late summer months. This figure will not take into account the winter months when the waterfall may freeze, because in such cases the waterfall will very often be inaccessible. Entries which specify a Flow Consistncy of 12 Months should in general have an acceptable flow at any time of year (but may be better during certain periods - see below).

Best Flow

A general estimate of the best period of the year during which time the falls will be considered at optimal conditions, or flowing at their best. There may be variance within the range specified where the flow will be better or worse, but visiting at any time in the range specified (if available) will generally present the waterfall in its best light.



Cataloged Icon
Waterfalls which are Cataloged we have visited and surveyed in person. Statistical information should be quite accurate (for the most part), and exact measurements will often be available (information is not guaranteed to always be up to date). Detailed information, directions, and photographs will almost always be available.
Confirmed Icon
Confirmed Waterfalls are known to exist, should be relatively accurately mapped and geotagged, and the statistical information available will often be dependable. If height information is presented, it may be estimated but should be accurate. Directions will not likely be available.
Unconfirmed Icon
Unconfirmed Waterfalls are often marked on a published map, but we have yet to confirm the exact location and / or whether or not its stature is significant enough to qualify for listing in the database. Statistical information may be estimated and may be inaccurate. No directions.
Unknown Icon
Waterfalls marked as Unknown are either suspected to exist based on heresay or a hunch, or we have received unverified information suggesting a waterfall may exist near the location provided but cannot corroborate it in any way. Geodata may not be accurate, the location may not be known at all, and statistical information will be estimated and highly inaccurate.
Inundated Icon
Inundated Waterfalls have been submerged beneath lakes or reservoirs, usually a result of impoundment of a river behind a dam, and most often no longer functionally exist (there may be rare exceptions). We maintain records for these features out of historical importance.
Disqualified Icon
Waterfalls which have been marked as Disqualified do not have the necessary stature or features to qualify as a legitimate waterfall according to our criteria. We will maintain records for entries with this status where the feature is well known and / or may have been historically referred to as a waterfall at some point in time.
Posted Icon
Posted Waterfalls are known to exist, and we may have a large amount of information associated with them, but are located on private property and are not legally accessible to the general public. Accessing waterfalls with this status should not be attempted without first being explicitly granted permission of the property owner.

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