Upper Marten Creek Falls

King County, Washington

Detailed Info

While Marten Creek produces a set of pretty and unique waterfalls immediately adjacent to the Snoqualmie Lake Trail, it isn't a one-trick pony, so to speak. Tucked at the head of a surprisingly significant gorge which runs upstream from the top of Marten Creek Falls toward Marten Lake is a second set of falls, a bit taller and definitely more impressive than its downstream sibling. The falls consist of two primary sections; first a long gradual sliding cascade which terminates in a much steeper, squarely shaped sliding fall with a second block-shaped fall just below, and then after running down a second cascading trough for about 200 feet a nearly sheer plunge of 76 feet into the depths of the creek's gorge. Adjacent to the plunging lower fall is a seasonal tributary fall which also drops about the same distance. Unfortunately due to the shape of the canyon below the lower tier, and the direction in which it falls, there does not appear to be any easy way to achieve a clear view of the lower and larger part of the falls without either resorting to technical climbing or putting up with some seriously heinous looking brush. Given that the creek runs down a long bedrock slide upstream of the upper tier of the falls, it may actually extend a considerable distance further upstream as well, but we have not yet been able to verify this hypothesis.

Though Marten Creek is one of the largest tributaries to the Taylor River, fed by a constant flow of water from Marten Lake about a mile upstream, the creek does lose considerable volume since there is no permanent ice feeding the drainage basin. The falls will roar to life through the spring and early summer months, but by autumn will be much more graceful and gentle than powerful and roaring - and while this isn't likely to affect the upper half of the falls in a very negative way, the lower tier of the falls will likely be entirely obstructed from view versus the partial view through the trees which can be achieved during high water periods.

History and Naming

Upper Marten Creek Falls is the Unofficial name of this waterfall.

Photo Tips

Unfortunately the lower and larger portion of the falls is quite difficult - if not impossible (without technical climbing skill at least) - to achieve a clear view of, so that leaves the upper half of the falls as your option for photography. The upper section of the falls is nice, but not so much a photogenic waterfall, at least as it was when we surveyed it. Later in the year the slopes adjacent to the falls should be covered in thickets of ferns and vine maple and may be scenic during the autumn months, but the rocky streambed below the falls doesn't lend well to neat and tidy compositions, so there may not be a whole lot of options here. The falls face almost due east and have a pretty wide open exposure, so expect lots of direct sunlight from mid morning until late afternoon to early evening hours.

Location & Directions

Coordinates:   47.59375, -121.50452
Elevation:   2625 feet

Marten Creek Falls is found along the Snoqualmie Lake Trail in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie area near North Bend. Exit Interstate 90 at Edgewick Road east of North Bend, turn north past the Truck Stop, then turn right onto Dorothy Lake Road, which becomes Taylor River Road, and then ultimately the forest service maintained Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road #56. Follow the Middle Fork Road - which turns to gravel at the Mailbox Peak trailhead at the 2.9 mile mark, and becomes notoriously bumpy thereafter for much of the year - for 12 miles to the bridge over the Taylor River. Just past the bridge stay straight where a sign points to the Snoqualmie Lake Trail and go another half-mile to the end of the road at the trailhead. Hike 2.7 miles to the Marten Creek bridge, then backtrack for about 300 feet to an unmarked but somewhat obvious path that climbs up the hill - this is the unofficial Marten Lake Trail. This trail begins climbing right off the bat as it gains the top of Marten Creek Falls, and in the process can be difficult to follow in some areas. After about half of a mile the trail breaks out into brushy avalanche slopes where the tread is encroached with ferns, salmonberry, slide Alder and Vine Maple, all of which makes the going more difficult. The falls are encountered about 8/10 of a mile from the Snoqualmie Lake Trail, and can be partially seen from the trail, but a clear view requires scrambling through the brush down to the creek - this is infinitely easier to do right after the snow has melted in the spring.

View this location in Google Earth

Other Nearby Waterfalls

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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.
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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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