Waterfalls of Whiskeytown

"Don't go chasing waterfalls," notes the line of a popular song by TLC. Yet here at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, we encourage you to chase waterfalls - go visit them! The park has four major waterfalls, or cascades. Currently, Whiskeytown Falls and Crystal Creek Falls are open to the public. Brandy Creek Falls and Boulder Creek Falls remain closed due to post-Carr Fire environmental hazards and safety concerns. Continue reading for information on each waterfall or download our trail guides for each waterfall trail.

 
Image of upper Whiskeytown Falls from the viewpoint
Whiskeytown Falls from the upper viewpoint. NPS Photo.

Whiskeytown Falls

The tallest cascade in the park, Whiskeytown Falls is reached via a strenuous 1.7 mile hike (3.4 miles roundttrip) on the James K. Carr Trail. The trail follows some steep sections of old logging roads and climbs approximately 700 feet to the falls. Offering good exercise, shade, views through the mixed conifer forest, and a backcountry experience, the James K. Carr Trail to Whiskeytown Falls is the most popular trail in the park. At the base of the waterfall, be sure and carefully climb up the cement stairs to the upper viewing platform.

2004: A Waterfall Odyssey
In this modern era, waterfall discoveries are uncommon, but Whiskeytown Falls was formally discovered just a couple of decades ago. In 2004, long-time park wildlife biologist Russ Weatherbee was looking on a detailed map when he saw lines noting a steep drop in topography. Curious, Russ grabbed his GPS and park radio and, with work colleague Brian Rasmussen, trekked out to this backcountry area of Whiskeytown. After some huffing and puffing on steep slopes, old roads, and cross country, Russ and Brian found a tiered, 220-foot-tall cascade. Soon afterwards, the cascade was dubbed Whiskeytown Falls. To make it accessible to outdoor recreation enthusiasts, two summers of trail construction work ensued and park staff opened the trail to Whiskeytown Falls for others to see and enjoy.

James K. Carr: The Father of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
The trail to Whiskeytown Falls is named in honor of James K. Carr, one of Redding's native sons and an instrumental figure in the establishment of what is officially known as Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area. A state and national reclamation official, Carr served as President John F. Kennedy's Undersecretary of the Interior, the number two position in the department behind Interior Secretary Stewart Udall.

 
Image of lower Boulder Creek Falls
Boulder Creek Falls. Helene Fischman Photo.

Boulder Creek Falls

Due to post-Carr Fire environmental hazards and safety concerns, Boulder Creek Falls Trail remains closed. The three cascades of Boulder Creek Falls are tucked into a dark, shaded box canyon filled with moss and ferns. Like much of the park, the forest around Boulder Creek Falls was selectively logged in the 1950s. As you hike to the falls, you are on the main hauling road that carried old-growth Douglas fir and ponderosa pines to the sawmill. When the park was established in 1965, as part of the compromise, some logging was allowed to continue into the early 1970's.

 
Brandy Creek Falls
Brandy Creek Falls. NPS Photo

Brandy Creek Falls

The Brandy Creek Falls Trail remains closed due to post-Carr Fire environmental hazards and safety concerns. In 2021, the park hopes to repair and restore the trail in its entirety.

Brandy Creek is noted for five large cascading falls that sweep down across polished granite rock. Upper Brandy Creek Falls plunges in a unique split formation through the steep vertical walls. The umbrella-leafed Indian rhubarb is one of the first spring flowers to appear, displaying an array pink blossoms. In the fall, the leaves of the indian rhubarb turn a bright orange color.

The trail to the falls was improved in 2005 with hand-hewn rock steps and a metal railing to help hikers safely reach the top of the waterfall. Please stay on the trail and watch your footing on the slippery rocks.

 
Image of Crystal Creek Falls
Lower Crystal Creek Falls. Heather Hockett Photo.

Crystal Creek Falls

The short 0.3 mile trail to Crystal Creek Falls is paved, flat, and accessible. The shallow natural pool at the base of the cascade is a popular spot for swimming and wading in the summer.

Crystal Creek Falls is the only "man-made" waterfall in the park. When the Central Valley Project's Trinity River Division project was designed in the late 1950s and early 60's, an important component was the diversion of a large portion of Trinity River water to Whiskeytown Lake and from there to the Sacramento River. The whole project was completed to increase water supply to farms and cities, provide hydroelectric power, and reduce the threat of flooding. A 17-mile tunnel was excavated to transport the water underground from Trinity Dam to the Judge Francis Carr Powerhouse. The tailings for this project were dumped in the area near Crystal Creek Falls.

When it is necessary to shut down the Carr Powerhouse for maintenance or to clean the tunnel, the valve is turned and the excess water from the tunnel spills into Crystal Creek.

When the overflow structure at the falls was built, the Bureau of Reclamation slightly rerouted Crystal Creek. The creek was moved about 50 feet to the left to make a shortcut over the cliff, creating this picturesque waterfall.

Last updated: October 26, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 188
Whiskeytown , CA 96095

Phone:

(530) 242-3400

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