Waterfalls of Whiskeytown

Note: Due to the threat of debris flows caused by the Carr Fire, for the safety of visitors and park staff, the only waterfall trails currently open include the accessible Crystal Creek Falls Trail as well as the James K. Carr Trail to Whiskeytown Falls.

"Don't go chasing waterfalls," notes the line of a popular song by TLC. Yet here at Whiskeytown NRA, we encourage you to chase waterfalls - go visit them! Whiskeytown has four major waterfalls that you can visit. While in springtime you can observe the waterfalls at peak flow due to creeks gushing from melting snow, a waterfall hike in summertime offers cool respite from the scorching sun. Visit the waterfalls in each season and note what differences and similarities you find.

Detailed waterfall and information are available at the Visitor Center. You may also print these guides at home trail guides.

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

Whiskeytown Falls

The age of discovery continues into the present at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area...

While studying aerial photographs of the park in 2004, long-time park natural resource manager Russ Weatherbee discovered a waterfall. Russ then visited the site and may have even pinched himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming the vision of this 220-foot-tall, three-part waterfall. Russ had discovered, or perhaps rediscovered, the tallest waterfall in the park.

After the story of the waterfall's discovery got out, it came to light that for over 40 years the falls was known about by a few local residents. For a variety of reasons, these specific individuals decided not to share the falls' existence with others.

Two summers of trail construction work ensued and park staff opened the trail to Whiskeytown Falls for others to see and enjoy.

The trail to the 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.

The James K. Carr Trail to Whiskeytown Falls is 3.4 miles roundtrip and is strenuous. There is over 600 feet of elevation gain and some steep sections of trail on the way to the waterfall. At minimum, wear sturdy shoes and carry plenty of water to drink.

While evidence of the Carr Fire can be found along the trail, ample shade remains. Because of the steep topography, colder climate, and unique vegetation of this drainage, the area was much less affected by the unprecedented fire than other areas of the park.

At the base of the waterfall, be sure and head up the cement stairs to see the upper sections of this three-tiered waterfall.

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

Boulder Creek Falls

At over 138 feet high, Boulder Creek Falls was thought to be the tallest waterfall in the park until Whiskeytown Falls was discovered in fall of 2004.

The three cascades of Boulder Creek Falls are tucked into a dark, shaded box canyon filled with moss and ferns. 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 70's. Once the logging ended the forest began to recover.

 
Brandy Creek Falls
Brandy Creek Falls

NPS

Brandy Creek Falls

Brandy Creek is noted for five large cascading falls that sweep down across the polished granite rock within an box canyon. 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 of brilliant 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

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.

The short 0.3 mile trail to Crystal Creek Falls is paved, flat, and accessible. The Carr Fire only lightly touched this area of the park; there is still ample shade along the trail and at the falls.

Last updated: May 6, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 188
Whiskeytown , CA 96095

Phone:

(530) 242-3400

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