Recent New and Latest Information
Changes and Updates
June 07, 2020
A couple of small but necessary changes were made to the Northwest Waterfall Survey today. Firstly and almost certainly the more positive news: we're transitioning away from using Google Maps and have a new mapping system partially operational as of today. Individual waterfall pages have changed to use topographic maps instead of the Google satellite imagery, and markers for the ten closest-by waterfalls to the location being viewed have returned! The Browse map has not yet been updated, but it will be changing to the new system in the hopefully not too distant future as well. In contrast to this, as a result of the behaviors and patterns of visitation we're seeing across various circles of the Social Media-verse, we've made the decision to further restrict and remove information for certain waterfalls in the database. Unfortunately the effects of viral media has shown to more often be negative in the long run, and the waterfalls which are most commonly the victim of such sharing are more and more quickly becoming over crowded, trashed, and generally disrespected by visitors, and in turn injuries or fatalities have also increased at some of these places due to increased visitation by those inexperienced with the hazards waterfalls can pose. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest's proactive decisions last year to remove the old viewing platform at Panther Creek Falls and construct a new trail to the base of the falls to circumvent the dangerous boot paths that emerged at the falls is a case study in why these changes are needed on our part. Therefore, in addition to no longer posting directions for off-trail waterfalls which has been in place for the last year, the Northwest Waterfall Survey will no longer give directions for waterfalls without officially sanctioned and developed means of access, and will no longer list coordinates for waterfalls without any sort of developed access unless they can be observed from a location with developed access without enticing any off-trail travel. These changes should still mostly apply to waterfalls in off-trail locations, but there are some areas where user-constructed trails have appeared or paths simply developed as a result of more and more visitors to a location.
Map and Access Revisions
July 04, 2018
After evaluating the usage of the Google Maps widgets used throughout the website over the last month and a half, it became apparent that it won't be possible to continue using custom maps everywhere they were previously used. The interactive maps used for browsing State data will remain unchanged (again, for now), but the maps on the Waterfall pages have been reverted to the standard Google Maps embedded window instead - there won't be markers showing exactly where the waterfalls are, but they will at least be interactive again. Coordinates are still provided for easy searching. This is just a band-aid solution to a longer term problem, and eventually the maps will (hopefully) be fully interactive and show the markers again. When that will happen, I can't say.
In addition to the changes to the maps, it's also become apparent that some changes to the content on this website are necessary. Long story short, too many waterfalls are being loved to death. The impact of Social Media and its associated behaviors on some of these waterfalls is getting harder and harder to ignore or brush aside. Washington State's Panther Creek Falls has fallen victim to a massive increase in foot traffic, to the point where the lush moss carpet which once surrounded the falls has now been beaten to a muddy pulp. One visitor or group of visitors even started a bonfire next to a log near the base of the falls which resulted in three or four trees actually catching fire and being partially scorched (it's lucky the whole forest didn't catch). This is not an isolated occurrence either. Many waterfalls which are more off-the-beaten-path are essentially having paths beaten to them, largely due to the viral nature of pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and whatever other digital flavor of the month is currently the rage, and much more often than should be, the behavior of those who visit these places is unacceptable.
So, while encouraging visitors to be good stewards of the land, practicing leave no trace ethics, and sharing information responsibly is the obvious thing to ask, it's become clear that it's necessary to go one step further where possible. Therefore effective immediately, the Northwest Waterfall Survey will no longer provide explicit directions to any waterfalls which are not accessible via an established and maintained trail, and in some cases even if there is an unofficial trail, if the waterfall is located within a more delicate environment where increased visitation may pose a risk to the long term sustainability of the surroundings, directions may be selectively omitted as well. In contrast however, for off-trail waterfalls which are located in areas where there is little risk of the surroundings being trampled by heavy visitation, explicit directions may be selectively provided - this will be determined on a case-by-case basis and will have to be audited manually. For the time being all off-trail waterfalls have had their directions removed.
Changes to how the Maps work
May 04, 2018
Google is rolling out a new Maps platform in June, which is requiring some significant changes to how we're implementing the Google Maps windows on each waterfall's page. Previously the map window was interactive everywhere, but because the map load quota is being cut dramatically for the free tier of the Google Maps platform, we're no longer going to be able to use the interactive maps everywhere. Until a new solution to the map system is identified and implemented - a complete overhaul of the map tools is planned - we're switching out the maps on each waterfall's page with a static non-interactive map, with just a single marker showing the location of the one waterfall in question. No longer will you be able to see any nearby waterfalls on this map.
The maps used for browsing full state data will so far not be impacted by these changes, and will continue to function as usual. However, depending on how much traffic these maps continue to receive, we may have to implement further temporary restrictions to ensure we don't start to incur significant charges for using Google's maps (their billing rates have increased approximately 1400% due to the changes, and we simply will not be able to afford to use their maps at that rate). We're looking into alternatives to implement in the future, and hopefully for now this bandaid will suffice and make sure there are relatively few changes. However it is possible we may have to revert to a more generic map window on each waterfall's page that simply doesn't show markers at all. We'll know more by the end of June what else will have to change, if anything.
The New and Improved Northwest Waterfall Survey
November 21, 2016
It had been almost nine years since we had done any sort of significant work on the Northwest Waterfall Survey, and it was definitely well past the point of needing a facelift. But this wasn't just a makeover for the site, we rebuilt the entire infrastructure from the ground up to better support the expandability we envision for the future. We now finally have the framework in place to move toward being able to freely accept and utilize content and information submitted by our readers. Additionally, the website is now fully responsive and mobile friendly for easy browsing on your phone or tablet. In the future, we plan on expanding our mobile support further as well.
Our design standards have also been adjusted to only support the newest internet browsers available. The site will function correctly in the most current versions of Chrome (our recommendation), Firefox, Edge, Safari, Opera, and Internet Explorer 11 (we would discourage its use because it's slow and insecure, and we may not be able to guarantee compatibility going forward). Older browsers are not guaranteed to display the website correctly, and we discourage you from using them. Further, in the future we plan on dropping support for Internet Explorer 11 as well, so make sure you use an up-to-date browser for the best experience.
The option to browse the database based on Region has been removed because the designated Regions were arbitrary and very contextually ambiguous. We felt with the advent of technologies like Google Maps that making our own map and arbitrary divisions thereof was just creating more work than necessary. Likewise the option to browse the database based on Watershed has also been removed - this was mainly because there are too many small drainages in the Northwest with only a handful of waterfalls, while the vast majority fall within the basins of one of the huge rivers (the Columbia, the Snake or the Willamette) and listing all of the falls encompassed within each wouldn't allow for the degree of granularity we wanted.
Given the two changes above, the old Flash-based map has been removed and replaced with a fully-interactive Google Maps window:
- You can browse the database via the map, showing all of the data for any of the three states at once (you cannot see more than one state at a time though). You can also drill down and view the data for any given county within a state.
- The map window has the option to snap and zoom to well known areas to aid in the search for waterfalls near a town, park, or well known landmark.
- The icons shown on the map window can be toggled on and off to aid in visibility in areas of high density.
- The Top 100 list can now be viewed in the map window.
- The icons which represent waterfalls on the map windows, in the table columns, and in the Rating / Status box on a waterfall's page have been updated to use the same graphics as the World Waterfall Database.
- You can now link directly to the map window for any given method of browsing (by State, County, or Top 100 list).
Table List Views
The Tabular lists used when browsing the database has been cleaned up and overhauled to improve readibility. Table rows are now brighter, wider, and highlight based on the status of the waterfall when you move your mouse cursor over it. Additionally:
- At the top of each table is a button to view the tabular data on a Map.
- Each waterfall's associated Status icon is now displayed at the left edge of the table to further visually communicate the status of the entry.
- State data tables (other than the Top 100 list) can now be sorted Alphabetically, by Rating, or by Height.
- The ability to sort County data tables by Rating and Height will be added in the future.
The information on each Waterfall's respective page has been tidied up and reorganized a little as well. We're removed some of the superfluous "filler" content like the links to Flickr, Panoramio, the small social media bookmark buttons, and the links to the third party mapping services like Flash Earth and Terraserver (because frankly Google Maps is the best option available as it is). We've also consolidated the Waterfall Page and the page which its associated photographs would appear on. Additionally:
- Photographs now appear in a sliding carousel, and can be opened in a Lightbox directly from the Waterfall's page rather than having to click through to a second page.
- The Photo Tips section has been moved to the main page from the old secondary page which harbored the photograph thumbnails.
- The map window on each Waterfall's page once again shows the icons of the ten closest waterfalls.
- Below the list of the 10 nearest waterfalls (if there are any are within 5 miles) is a "Find More Nearby Waterfalls" button that will take the user to a Map window centered on the waterfall in question. Panning this map around will then display all waterfalls which appear within the map window.
We have some more small changes that will be implemented in the coming weeks, none of which were determined to be show stoppers to delay launch at all. We would greatly appreciate feedback about the usability of the website; if you have any concerns or issues, or you encounter any bugs please let us know about it. We won't be making any edits or additions to the database probably until after the beginning of the year, because our next task is to completely overhaul our administration system. Once that's done, we'll beging working on our interface to allow User Submitted Information and Pictures, with the goal of having that active by next spring at the latest.
April 15, 2013
We've just rolled out a content update that added about 400 more waterfalls to the database for both Washington and Oregon. This update has pushed the number of waterfalls we have cataloged in Washington State to over 2,000, and Oregon has eclipsed 1,200. A lot of what we just added isn't necessarily going to be well-rounded content because most of the waterfalls in question lie in harder-to-access areas (such as the backcountry of Mount Rainier National Park), but there were a number of glaring holes that this update has now filled in. We'll be slowly fleshing out the new data as we have time, as always, and will be adding several more new full survey reports in the next week or two before the season really kicks into gear.
March 24, 2013
Those of you paying attention to the Updates page might notice a whole lot of changes going in over the last couple weeks. Unfortunately this isn't an exponential increase in field survey work (as much as I'd like it to be), but rather some much needed house keeping. Google has recently started adding - en masse - LIDAR data to it's topographic models for Google Earth. For those who aren't familiar, LIDAR - which stands for Light Detection and Ranging - is a technology that can be used for topographic surveying without being inhibited by trees and plant growth, and its results are incredibly accurate. So what this data being loaded into Google Earth means is the terrain models it uses results in being able to accurately locate waterfalls with not only a high level of accuracy, but also gauge their height nearly as accurately as if it were surveyed in the field.
Over the last couple weeks, I've been editing location data for a ton of waterfalls where this data has been made available, and there's still a ton more to come over the next several months. Most of what you're seeing in the updates page is not being updated beyond adjusting the Latitude, Longitude, Elevation and sometimes the height of the waterfall. But in some cases, we've been able to provide some much more detailed information (see Wahe Falls and Oneonta Falls in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge, for example).
The added bonus of having this LIDAR data at my disposal now is that I've been mapping a ton of new waterfalls which I either wasn't aware of, or was only partially convinced actually existed. Right now I'm sitting on about 400 new waterfalls to be added in to the database and I hope to have that up by the end of April, if not sooner (especially since some of the new finds are being catapulted to the very top of the "to survey" list for this summer).
Up In Flames
October 04, 2012
Several particularly large forest fires were sparked in mid September around the Pacific Northwest and have grown to considerable size thanks to the severe lack of rain over the last two months. Several of these fires have resulted in closures to large swaths of National Forest land out of safety concerns (which really messed with our plans to get to new waterfalls). But more relevant to this website is the fact that three of these fires have affected areas known to harbor several significant waterfalls.
The Table Mountain fire burning east of Highway 97 near Blewett Pass in Washington has burned an area of over 42,000 acres so far. It is known to have burned around both Jillian and Howard Creek Falls (neither of which we have yet visited).
The Cascade Creek fire on the southwest side of Mount Adams has burned over 20,000 acres and has consumed almost the entire Cascade Creek and Salt Creek drainages, which includes at least half a dozen significant waterfalls (all of which are off-trail and have yet to be surveyed). Several of the falls in this area were in sub-alpine zones, or are above tree line, so it's not clear how significantly the burn has affected the area - it may actually make cross-country navigating easier.
The biggest casualty thus far is from the Pole Creek Fire, east of Oregon's South Sister and north of Broken Top. The fire has burned out nearly the entire Whychus Creek drainage, which includes some of the best waterfalls in Oregon. Some photos suggest that the burn hasn't affected the bigger trees nearly as much as it has the understory, but expect the Chush Falls Trail to be closed for a while once the fire has been extinguished, and dont' be surprised if there are a lot of new logs fallen into the streams in the area.
One last note - the Top 100 Page is back up and working as it should be after we revamped the ratings a bit to account for the changes needed to reflect the true stature of the waterfalls in the Bacon Creek drainage of North Cascades National Park.
The Big Boys
September 24, 2012
While we've been slow to post any news here, we have been ensuring a slow but fairly steady trickle of new content has been getting posted over the last couple of months. Among that new stuff is our survey reports from the big waterfalls in the upper Bacon Creek drainage in North Cascades National Park - specifically Green Lake Falls and Berdeen Falls, two of the biggest and best waterfalls in Washington State. Unfortunately we couldn't get close because the terrain proved to be much, much more rugged and difficult to navigate than we expected, and time was limited, but there are at least pictures and more accurate information about the falls now available on their respective pages.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this new data is how it affected our Top 100 list. After getting a much better idea of how much water was involved in both Green Lake and Berdeen Falls, our ratings were adjusted and Green Lake Falls fell out of 1st place, with Depot Creek Falls assuming the spot of the best waterfall in the Pacific Northwest. While this may certainly shift back with additional surveys, this was mostly indicative of our overestimating how consistently the volume of these waterfalls would be during the late summer months (turns out the streams shrink more than expected).
Additionally, because of this shift in the ratings, we noticed a huge problem with our Top 100 page and we've had to take it offline in order to fix the issue with the data not populating and calculating the ratings correctly. It should hopefully be back online within the week.
Workshops are tentative this year
April 21, 2012
For several reasons, both personal and work related, my schedule is not terribly flexible at the moment, so in turn I currently do not have any plans to offer photography workshops for the 2012 season. However, I do expect my workload to lessen significantly toward the end of the summer and if / when this occurs, I may post up to three classes in the fall - likely one each in September, October and November - at locations that have yet to be determined and on dates which will be determined in the future (again, if this happens).
If my schedule does not let up, I will not be offering any classes this year, but I do anticipate offering at least four and possibly up to six classes in 2013, but this is currently way too far in the future to plan for. If you are interested in attending, keep watch here on the site for any announcements.
Snohomish County wants to dam Sunset Falls
October 30, 2011
While in a serendipitous coincidence three major dams in Washington are being removed right now (Condit Dam on the White Salmon, and the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on the Elwha River), the Snohomish County Public Utility District is seeking to build more dams, specifically targetting several waterfalls as locations to do so.
The PUD just began operation of the first new dam in Washington State in decades, a relatively small project on Youngs Creek near Monroe capable of producing (at peak flow) 7.5 megawatts of electricity - enough to power about 5000 homes. The Youngs Creek project was built well above Youngs Creek Falls, which serves as a natural barrier to migrating fish, and didn't have a terribly sigifnicant impact on the surrounding forest. The Youngs Creek project was done right.
What is now being proposed by the PUD at other locations is entirely different. Licences have been applied for to put a 30 megawatt facility in place along the South Fork Skykomish River, with a dam above Canyon Falls and the powerhouse adjacent to Sunset Falls. The proposed project would house a 19-foot diameter tunnel to flume the river to the powerhouse. This would certainly allow for a minimum flow to be sent over the falls, but the kicker is that the project's capacity would be approximately 2500 cubic feet per second - which is greater than the mean annual flow for the river at this point. This means that while Canyon and Sunset Falls would still flow during the winter months, they may be entirely dry during the summer under this proposal. If such a setup was instituted at Snoqualmie Falls the public would be in uproar, I think the only reason the PUD might get away with this is because Sunset Falls is not a frequently visited waterfall.
In addition to the project at Sunset Falls, the PUD also wants to dam both Calligan Creek and Hancock Creek on the Snoqualmie Tree Farm - both in King County! Hancock Timber would presumably lease the land to the PUD, but could conceivably be compensated with a portion of revenue as well. In the process we would lose (or at least see greatly reduced) four more waterfalls - Calligan Creek Falls being potentially the best waterfall on the tree farm, and three as yet undocumented waterfalls along Hancock Creek.
Ultimately, in the case of Calligan and Hancock Creeks, because the waterfalls lie on private land there isn't much the public can do other than voice their opinion. But because the project along the Skykomish River lies partially on public land, we do have a say. And this is where things get tricky. Clean energy projects should definitely be pursued and as water is something we have in abundance in the Pacific Northwest, hydro power is the most logical method of producing clean energy. But at the same time sacrificing some of the best waterfalls in the region should not be necessary. We strongly urge those of you who care to make known that you do not want to see Sunset Falls destroyed.