Rachor Falls

King County, Washington

Detailed Info

Rachor Falls is the largest waterfall along Black Creek as it descends a steep, narrow and very precarious canyon down the northwest side of Mount Si on the Snoqualmie Tree Farm. The falls begin with a 51 foot plunge - which veils out broadly at high flow - into a deep pool, followed by a fall of 23 feet which tumbles under a logjam before the creek runs through a narrow flume and 50-linear feet later hurtles off the lip of a 237 foot nearly vertical plunging fall into the deepest part of the canyon, slamming into a protruding rock near its base and creating a large roostertail at the bottom of the falls in the process.

For better or worse, Black Creek has been regulated in a small hydroelectric system which diverts the majority of the creek away from the canyon and the falls. A minimum release of 5 cubic feet per second is allowed to flow over the falls at all times, but occasionally the diversion is turned off and the falls flow with their full fury (moreso during the winter months).

Unfortunately, as impressive as the falls are, access is anything but simple or safe. Until May 2008 only one person was known to have successfully photographed the falls and to date fewer than a dozen people are thought to have visited the falls with the intent of specifically documenting it. Considering how close this one is to the Interstate 90 corridor this speaks to its remoteness, but this is also due to the fact that one must ford the creek in order to see the main part of the falls clearly.

Because the falls lie on the Snoqualmie Tree Farm, former Weyerhaeuser property which is now administered by Hancock Timber Management, access has never been an easy endeavor. Hancock allows motorized access on their lands only by purchasing an expensive access permit (which comes with a key to their gates). Until 2012 the public had been free to recreate via non-motorized means at any time, but starting in January 2012 Hancock will be charging a $75 annual recreation use fee for all forms of public access, motorized or non.

History and Naming

Rachor Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.

The name of the falls stems from the misconception that the creek was titled Rachor Creek, after the lake it heads in. Rachor Lake (believed to be pronounced "Ray-chur") was named for Rachor Taylor, daughter (one of six children) of William Taylor, the founder of the city of North Bend. That the falls only hold the same title as the lake is no less appropriate however.

Photo Tips

The two upper tiers of Rachor Falls are quite photogenic, but the big drop is hard to see, let alone photograph. This isn't a waterfall which is particularly recommended for photography in the first place, but for the intrepid few who will manage to visit with the goal of portraying the falls in a flattering light, the best opportunities are of the upper tier. The falls face anywhere from west to south and are heavily shaded until the afternoon hours (during the winter the falls may not received any direct sunlight).

Location & Directions

Coordinates:   47.54346, -121.71019
Elevation:   1436 feet
USGS Map:   Mount Si 7 1/2"

Let us preface by saying Rachor Creek Canyon is deep, steep and very dangerous and should only be visited using the utmost caution. Use your best judgment when considering a visit. The falls are accessed from the Spur 10 Gate on the Snoqualmie Tree Farm north of North Bend. From North Bend, head north on Ballarat Avenue which later becomes North Fork County Road. Just under 4 miles from town, the road forks; head left (uphill). About 3 3/4 miles later you'll reach Spur 10 Gate (on the right) where a major cross road intersects the North Fork Road. Park and walk or bike the gated road for 1 1/2 miles to a three-way junction just past the bridge over the North Fork Snoqualmie River. Head right and then stay left at the next major road (where a sign points to Black Creek to the right). About 2 1/3 miles from the 3-way fork is an old road splitting off to the right and downhill. Its currently blocked by a massive pile of logs and forest waste and not easy to see unless you really look for it. Once you find the road, simply follow it to its end in front of Old Spur Falls. It's about 1/2 mile from the drivable road to the falls, and the old road gets progressively brushier and muddier as you get closer to Black Creek. Plan to get wet, dirty and very scratched up. Once the creek has been reached, scramble (steeply at times) about 500 feet downstream to the top of Rachor Falls. The ONLY safe way to see the big drop is to cross Rachor Creek at the top of the upper tier of the falls, then contour above the canyon until the slope tapers off to a manageable grade and then proceed downhill until a clear view can be found. This should only be attempted when the creek is running low - if the stream is more than 2-3 feet wide and no more than a foot deep, do not attempt to cross. Additionally, the rocks around the top of Rachor Falls are EXTREMELY slick, so it is recommended that the ford be undertaken in the deeper, more pebbly pools just upstream from the falls, rather than at the narrower channel where it appears possible to just jump across.

View this location in Google Earth
Rachor 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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Key

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.
Confirmed Icon
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.
Unconfirmed Icon
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.
Unknown Icon
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.
Inundated Icon
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.
Subterranean Icon
Subterranean
Though not common, some waterfalls can be found entirely underground within cave systems. Access to subterranean waterfalls can vary from easy via developed walkways to requiring a high level of extremely technical spelunking skill, including familiarity with ropework and a distinct lack of claustrophobia.
Disqualified Icon
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.
Posted Icon
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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