Depot Creek Falls

Whatcom County, Washington

Detailed Info

The main waterfall of Depot Creek is one of the true juggernaut waterfalls in North America and by some standards might be one of the 100 best waterfalls on the planet. Depot Creek heads in three large glaciers on the north face of Mount Redoubt - itself one of the tallest mountains in Washington. The melt from the glaciers converge into what can resemble a modest river under hot enough conditions and hurtles, skips, slides and veils 948 feet over a huge glacially carved headwall in the valley. Puritanically thinking, Depot Creek might not be considered a noteworthy waterfall because most of the waterfall skips and slides down the rock, rather than falling vertically, but seeing this waterfall in person would easily dispel any such arguments. The falls begin by plunging 248 feet off the lip of the valley into a narrow shaded crevice. Immediately upon exiting the confines of the crack in the bedrock, the stream turns 70 degrees to the left and begins a long, steep horsetailing slide for a further 626 vertical feet, followed then by a final plunging drop of 72 feet. This all occurs over a run of about 1600 feet in length, but despite the great distance involved in the drop, the falls are quite a bit steeper - averaging a 70 degree pitch in most areas - than the overall profile may otherwise suggest. At many points during the drop, the creek impacts the bedrock at such angles that huge roostertails can be seen exploding into the air, accompanied by clouds of mist as the water pounds its way down the mountainside. Unfortunately due to the twisting shape of the falls, there is no way to see the entire waterfall from the ground, though each section can be approached individually. Furthering the somewhat restricted views, because the falls slide down the mountainside at a less than vertical angle, much of the falls are obscured by foreshortening when viewed up close.

History and Naming

Depot Creek Falls is the Unofficial name of this waterfall.

Depot Creek was named for the presence of an old trading outpost near its mouth. The falls, to the best of my knowledge, have never been named, even unofficially. I really feel that Depot Creek Falls is too bland of a name for such a grand waterfall, and I would like to apply a more fitting title, so don't be surprised if one day, the name has changed.

Photo Tips

Depot Creek Falls is a very difficult waterfall to properly photograph from the ground. A wide angle lens is necessary for several compositions and a modest zoom for others. The best overview of the falls can be seen before approaching the Custer Fork of Depot Creek at the base of Depot Creek Falls, looking over the low avalanche scrub a short distance off the trail. The falls face northwest and are best lit later in the afternoon and actually look best in sunlight, but there are some compositions where looking almost right into the sun can't be avoided. Slow shutter studies could work well here, but there is just such an immense volume of water coming down the falls that it doesn't do justice to the power exuded by the creek. Spray is a big issue at many of the viewpoints - especially at the bottom and below the uppermost part of the falls.

Location & Directions

Coordinates:   48.97732, -121.28477
Elevation:   4760 feet
USGS Map:   Mount Redoubt 7 1/2"

Depot Creek Falls is located roughly a mile due north of Mount Redoubt in North Cascades National Park and can only be accessed via a seldom maintained climbers trail which starts near Chilliwack Lake in British Columbia. The access roads leading to the trailhead are extremely rough and require 4wd to pass. To reach the trailead, take Canada Highway 1 to Chilliwack, BC, exit at Vedder Road and turn south. Go 3.3 miles to a blinking light before crossing the Chilliwack River and turn left onto the Chilliwack River Road. Follow Chilliwack Road for 25 miles to where the pavement ends at Chilliwack Lake. At this point the Chilliwack Lake FSR - which can only be described as a pothole breeding ground - takes over and follows the lakeshore. From here on out, 4wd is recommended but 2wd vehicles could make it if going very slow. Drive another 6 1/2 miles, bearing right at the junction at 4 3/4 miles before crossing the twin Paleface Creek bridges, then bear left on an unmarked road (the Depot Creek FSR). Lower clearance vehicles will need to park here, 4wd vehicles can proceed as much as 2 miles further depending on the condition of the road, to where a permanent washout has reverted it to a trail. From here, follow the old road (sometimes with a stream running down it) for 1 3/4 miles (head left and uphill after about a quarter mile) to the US / Canada border. Once in Washington, the Depot Creek Trail takes over. Sign the trail register and then follow the trail - which can be difficult in places - for another 3 1/2 miles to the bottom of the falls. The National Park Service doesn't maintain the Depot Creek Trail more than once every decade, if that, so expect lots of windfallen trees and overgrown brush. When you near the base of the falls, you'll have to ford the Custer Fork of Depot Creek and climb up an 8 foot rock, with aid of a rope, to reach vistas of the falls. The path to the top of the falls heads up the rock to the left of the falls, then punches through the slide growth and climbs up a talus field. Please note, the sign at the trail register at the border states that you're supposed to let customs officials know you plan on re-crossing into the US if you hike this trail.

View this location in Google Earth
Depot Creek 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.

Pitch

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.

Run

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.

Form

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.

Watershed

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.

Stream

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.

Source

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.

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Cataloged Icon
Cataloged
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.
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Confirmed
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.
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Unconfirmed
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.
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Unknown
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.
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Inundated
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.
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Disqualified
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.
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Posted
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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