Lower Little Mashel Falls

Pierce County, Washington

Detailed Info

The lowermost of the trifecta of waterfalls within the gorge of the Little Mashel River has perhaps the most character of the three falls, but is also arguably the least attractive of the group. The falls drop 39 feet as the river exits from a narrow trough in the gorge, and spills down a chunky ledge in several separate rivulets - though most of the water follows one primary channel. During periods of higher flow, the secondary channels of the falls will appear more significant, but in the summer and autumn months the falls will constrict to a very narrow breadth.

Interestingly, this waterfall appears to have shifted its appearance considerably in the last decade or so. When we first surveyed it in the late 90's and early 00's, the falls had two distnct main channels; the left plunging a sheer 25 feet or so, then cascading another 25 feet, and the right with roughly equal flow where the majority of the river currently flows. Comparing the photographs we have on file between then and now seems to suggest that there used to be a large log jam in the trough above the falls which directed part of the river over the cliff at a much higher level than it currently resides. As the log jam is no longer there, the former left segment of the falls has disappeared (though maybe it will re-appear during flood conditions).

The waterfalls along the Little Mashel River are a popular spot for locals in the summer months. Numerous swimming holes provide enticing opportunities to cool off from the heat, but as is common at such places, this has lead to a lot of trash being left around the area. Please be considerate if you visit and be sure to pack out everything you pack in.

History and Naming

Lower Little Mashel Falls is the Unofficial name of this waterfall.

Though we've been able to find references to colloquial names for the upper and middle falls on the Little Mashel River, we have had no luck finding any such references to this waterfall. We would be quite surprised if there was never a name applied to this waterfall, but until we can prove that there was, we'll continue to refer to it simply as Lower Little Mashel Falls.

Photo Tips

Getting safely to the bottom of the falls is a little tricky. The trail gets very steep in the last 50 feet and can be extremely muddy at times too. If you don't want to risk descending, try to incorporate the large maple tree overhanging the near bank as seen here.

Location & Directions

Coordinates:   46.85014, -122.27345
Elevation:   886 feet
USGS Map:   Eatonville 7 1/2"

There are a couple of different approaches to the waterfalls of the Little Mashel River. The officially sanctioned approach is to enter from the entrance to the Pack Forest off Highway 7, about one-third of a mile south of the junction with Highway 161, south of Eatonville. The road is gated on the weekends, and open during daylight hours during the week. Parking is afforded to the left, just past the entrance when the gate is locked. To reach the Falls Trail, continue past the entrance along Road 1000 for about 2 miles, the bear left onto Road 1070 and continue another third of a mile to the trailhead (which isn't well marked). The trail begins by following a muddy former road through waist-high grass, then quickly begins dropping into the woods. A little over one-quarter mile down, the trail splits, the left branch heading to the lower falls, and the right to Little Mashel (middle) and Tom Tom Falls (upper). Stay left and continue down hill, along the increasingly muddy trail. After another eighth of a mile or so, take the next right (there should be a sign indicating the Lower Falls here), and follow the even muddier path moderately steeply down hill to the base of the falls, a total distance of about 1/2-mile from the trailhead. It is also possible to approach the falls from the Alder Cutoff Road, about 2 miles from Eatonville; multiple user paths drop down to the river above the falls from a large pullout along the road, which then allow quicker access to the falls via scramble routes. The caveat for this approach is the City of Eatonville is notorious for ticketing and towing cars which park here (though we always see multiple cars parked in the pullout every time we drive past). The land is technically owned by the state, but a parcel of the river upstream of Little Mashel Falls is on land owned by the city, and getting between the two requires crossing railroad tracks owned by the City of Tacoma. Additionally, the only options for crossing the river above Tom Tom Falls in order to access the Falls Trail are either to rock-hop, or walk across a railroad bridge spanning the river (which is illegal and a big part of why the city tickets people in the area). We don't advise using this approach because of this situation.

View this location in Google Earth

Other Nearby Waterfalls

Additional Waterfalls which occur within 5 miles of Lower Little Mashel 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.
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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