Shoestring Falls

King County, Washington

Detailed Info

Shoestring Falls is the first significant waterfall of the plethora of waterfalls one can seek out in the drainage of the West Fork of the Foss River. The unnamed stream drains from Panorama Lake and a small permanent snow patch hiding beneath the north face of Malachite Peak in a basin over 3,000 feet above the floor of the Foss River valley. All the melt water and runoff from this basin percolates through a large talus field and then starts tumbling down an avalanche-ravaged slope, then as the stream encounters the valley wall itself, it hurtles down a lofty series of stair-step plunges and horsetails, dropping somewhere around 1,100 feet in (at least) five distinct tiers before hitting the alluvial fan on the valley floor from which the stream tumbles through the forest at a much more tepid pace for another 500-600 feet to meet the Foss River. The upper two tiers of the falls occur within a rather narrow recess and do not lend themselves to visibility from the valley floor very well, while the lower most tier(s) are obstructed by trees along the valley floor when viewed from the Foss Lakes trail. That leaves the visible portion of the falls as the two middle tiers, plus the top of a third drop from some perspectives, as the only visible portions of the falls - this accounts for perhaps 500-600 feet of the total drop of the falls, including the largest individual drop of around 300 feet.

The stream which produces this waterfall also exhibits an interesting split-channel behavior during periods of higher runoff. Adjacent and immediately south of the tallest and most visible tier of Shoestring Falls a low-volume horsetail-style waterfall can be seen falling gently for about 300-400 feet into the valley proper. This fall is fed by a portion of the same stream producing Shoestring Falls which trickles off course. By August in most years this additional fall runs dry. We had previously referred to this waterfall individually as "Sunray Falls", but upon further surveying have determined it to not be of enough significance to remain listed separately (it may have also been diminished in stature due to recent flooding or landslides as it was barely flowing when last surveyed in July 2012 while Shoestring Falls was at the highest level we've witnessed).

Shoestring Falls is a perennial waterfall, though the basin it drains from is limited in size and in following it will flow with a considerably reduced volume during the autumn months. The falls also likely freeze solid during the peak months of the winter.

History and Naming

Shoestring Falls is the Proposed name of this waterfall.

This waterfall is not known to have any official or historical name. We've suggested the name Shoestring Falls for the fact that the falls drop in such a narrow series of plunges down the mountainside that it appears as if someone draped a white shoe string down from the summit of the peak.

Photo Tips

While it may be possible to get close to the falls, the brush lining the bottom of the Foss River valley is very thick and would likely be almost masochistic to trek through. Should views from the bottom prove to be possible, expect less than half of the falls to be visible. Thanks to the reconstruction of the Foss Lakes trail, at least half of the falls can be clearly seen from the trail now with no need to bushwhack at all. The falls have a wide-open easterly facing and will see even, direct sunlight in the morning hours and consistent shading starting late afternoon (heavy haze is fairly common at this time as well). Well framed shots of the falls require a focal length between 100-150mm.

Location & Directions

Coordinates:   47.63127, -121.31881
Elevation:   3130 feet
USGS Map:   Skykomish 7 1/2"

Shoestring Falls is found in the Foss River valley off Highway 2 near Skykomish. Take Highway 2 east from Skykomish to the Skykomish Ranger Station, then continue another half-mile and turn right onto the Foss River Road. Follow the road for 4 1/2 miles and turn left where the main road continues straight, following signs for the West Fork Foss Trail, then proceed to its end at the trailhead in another 2 miles. Follow the Foss Lakes trail for no more than 10 minutes to where the falls will come into view. The best views will be had from about 20 feet off the trail a little less than half of a mile from the trailhead.

View this location in Google Earth

Other Nearby Waterfalls

Additional Waterfalls which occur within 5 miles of Shoestring Falls
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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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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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