Shannon Falls, British Columbia

Shannon Falls in August 2010

Shannon Falls just goes to show how deceiving waterfalls can be. Looking at pictures of the falls, it doesn’t look like an extremely tall waterfall, and yet Shannon Falls is actually one of the tallest waterfalls in British Columbia. At approximately 820′ tall, it’s a wildly impressive waterfall. Only when you’re standing near it do you begin to realize how small you are compared to this falls.

It’s a complex waterfall, and because of that, it can be somewhat difficult to photograph the whole falls. That is what likely makes it seem “shorter.” The lower portion of the falls is completely lost from view in the picture to the right. To get a better view of the lower portion of the falls, you sacrifice views of the upper portion. There are multiple different places to view the falls. A number of paths form what seemed like a loop that leads away from the falls and then comes back around near the base. The base of the falls allows for some exploring. Wedding photography was taking place near the falls when I visited, and I can’t deny that it was a really spectacular place to visit.

Directions:

  1. I want to say that this is a pretty hard waterfall to miss, though you might only be able to see it from BC-99 at certain angles.  That doesn’t change the fact that it is found right off of BC-99, approximately 58 km from Vancouver.  If you’re headed to Whistler, you’ll be passing by!  Heading north, the parking area for the falls will be on the right.  There is a $1 entrance fee for 1 hour (if I remember correctly), which was more than enough time to visit the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: ~820′
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip (to viewpoint)

Where in the World is Shannon Falls?

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Rainbow Falls, Ontario

I took a short weekend trip to Thunder Bay at the end of April, and one of my goals was to try and hit a number of waterfalls along the Trans-Canada Highway. Many of the interesting waterfalls are found along or near the main highway. Rainbow Falls is some distance west of the Schreiber/Terrace Bay area, and on my initial journey east, I actually passed the park the falls are located in, Rainbow Falls Provincial Park. The signs seemed to indicate that it was a campground entrance, but in reality it was the entrance to the park.

It ended up that I turned and started driving back west the same day. I then turned into the signs I had originally passed. Since it was the end of April, the park was actually “closed”, to my surprise. You could turn onto the main road in the park, and park your car in a small area near the main gate…But the gate was actually closed to prevent anyone from driving further into the park.

In this case, I just decided to start hiking along the main road. Normally, you would be able to drive down this road, and get much closer to the falls. The hike along the main road doesn’t add a considerable amount of time to your journey, and it is relatively enjoyable. Once you get to the parking area designated for the falls, you can begin exploring. There are numerous parts to the falls, though the whole set of drops cannot be photographed easily.

Stairs lead you up and down near the falls. This is very nice, but may also limit your ability to explore portions of the falls. In late April, this specific falls seemed to be flowing pretty well, and so that may have been a very good thing that visitors were unable to deviate. The falls are interesting, but in the end, you may be frustrated by the inability to capture the “whole” falls, or really the complexity of the falls.

Directions:

  1. The falls are relatively easy to find, as they are right off of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 17). They are not too far west of Schreiber, which is a small town. They are a more significant drive from Thunder Bay.
  2. If you are headed west on the Trans-Canada Highway, the entrance to the park will be on your right. As I said, I think the sign also indicates a campground.
  3. Depending on the time of year, the gate to the road leading closer to the falls may or may not be open. There may be a fee to enter, though there was no gate attendant and I don’t remember there being a self-pay station.

(Note:  I support state and provincial parks, and have no problem paying for entry into parks. Ontario, though, often does not have gate agents, and instead has self-pay kiosks. Entry into many of the parks in Ontario is at least $5.50 for an hour or two, and the kiosks I’ve visited only accept coins…Therefore, plan on bringing a lot of change! It’s a slight annoyance, I guess.)

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy, stairs!)
Height: ~80′ (don’t quote me on this one)
Hike: 1 mile round-trip (approximately, depends on how far you go along trails)

The lower portion of Rainbow Falls in April 2012, with some barely-visible portions of the falls.

The uppermost portion of the falls.

Where in the World is Rainbow Falls?

Kakabeka Falls, Ontario

Ever since visiting the North Shore of Minnesota and truly enjoying my time there, I have wanted to visit the area further north on the Canadian side. This past weekend, I flew into Thunder Bay, and the first waterfall I headed to was Kakabeka Falls, one of the more widely known in Ontario. At over 130′ tall, it is one of the taller falls around Lake Superior.

Now it’s the end of April, and I’ll first of all point out there was a LOT less water flowing over the falls than I expected. There must have been a lot less snowfall than normal, because the flow at Kakabeka Falls and other falls in the area seemed greatly diminished.  I understand the flow is partially controlled by a dam, but I’ve seen pictures during the weekdays that have more water than this. Oh well…waterfalls are unpredictable!

The falls are impressive, but I’m not sure that they fall into my “Favorites” category. While the falls have good viewpoints, they seems “far away.” I’m not really sure why…Maybe being in the gorge would provide a greater sense of the size. I found Little Falls, Kakabeka Falls’ smaller counterpart, to be more interesting because I could get up close and personal.

Directions:

  1. From Thunder Bay, head west on Trans-Canada highway 11/17.
  2. About 30 km from Thunder Bay, you’ll come upon the entrance to Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park on your left.
  3. Park and pay the entrance fee.  It was $5.25 for 2 hours, $6.75 for 4 hours, or $10.50 for a whole day.  I visited both Kakabeka and Little Falls, and it took less than 2 hours.  (A number of Ontario parks have self-pay machines that are automated and ONLY accept 25 cent, $1, and $2 coins, so bring CHANGE…it’s my pet peeve of Ontario parks.)
  4. From there, head to the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 131′
Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip (along Boardwalk Trail)

Kakabeka Falls in late-April 2012

Where in the World is Kakabeka Falls?

Moul Falls, British Columbia

Moul Falls in August 2010

I’m sure there are a number of more isolated waterfalls in Wells Gray Provincial Park, but of the most widely known falls near Clearwater Valley Road, Moul Falls might take the most effort to get to. Compared to Helmcken, Dawson, or Spahats Creek Falls, you do actually have to hike to get to the falls. It’s an almost 4 mile round-trip hike.

I don’t remember it being a difficult hike (which I usually remember if I suffered!). The bear signs at the beginning of the hike did freak me out for a second, but there were a number of other people on the trail, that I would have been surprised to see any bears. I do remember that as you get very close to your destination, you will have to climb down some rickety-looking stairs to get to the base, but it’s well worth it for the final view.

When I showed up, it was very sunny, so the falls were very bright. The spray from the falls created a rainbow near the base, but when I tried to capture it in the photograph, the falls became extremely bright. I think there’s a mild hint of the rainbow in this picture. It was really an enjoyable hike, and it is nice to be able to get closer to this waterfall than the others in the park.

Directions:

  1. From Clearwater, head north on Clearwater Valley Road for 13 miles.
  2. On your left, you will see the parking area for Moul Falls.  The parking areas not huge, but there’s probably enough room except on the busiest of days.  From there, follow the trail to the falls.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: 115′
Length of Hike: 3.6 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Moul Falls?

The Mushbowl, British Columbia

Well, the Mushbowl at least goes down as having one of the more interesting names for a waterfall. As with many of the other more popular waterfalls in Wells Gray Provincial Park, it’s also really easy to view. It’s very obvious from certain viewpoints and even as your crossing over the bridge just feet from the falls. It’s just not anywhere near as large as Helmcken or Dawson Falls. So it probably doesn’t get paid as much attention.

It’s still a pretty waterfall, and it other places, it would probably rank higher. Its redeeming quality is that it is so easily accessible. It’s pretty impressive at high flows too, and even in late August it was still flowing intensely. Stop by and visit it just because you can without much effort.

Directions:

  1. From Clearwater, head north on Clearwater Valley Road for about 40 km/25 miles to the parking area for Dawson Falls. Along the way, you will have passed parking areas for Spahat’s Creek Falls and Moul Falls. Once you reach the bridge over the Mushbowl, pass over the bridge and park on your right. That’s where the most “parking” seems to be available. I found it easier to stop on the way back, as you’ll pass by it again after visiting Helmcken Falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 15′
Length of Hike: roadside

The Mushbowl in August 2010

Where in the World is the Mushbowl?

Nairn Falls, British Columbia

Nairn Falls in August 2010

The first thing I noticed as I started hiking to Nairn Falls was how amazingly beautiful the river next to the trail is. The Green River flows very quickly, and not surprisingly has this extremely cool turquoise color to it. As you continue along, you’ll climb up and down a relatively easy trail. There is some elevation change, but it’s not bad.

Once you get to the falls, begin to explore. I will admit it is one of the more unique waterfalls I’ve seen. The picture on the right is the initial drop, which is beautiful, though somewhat difficult to photograph due to fencing. Then the river takes a literal 90 degree turn, and after going a short distance, takes another 90 degree turn, as if returning to its original path. The river drops again at this point, though the safety fencing REALLY blocks any good view of the second drop. It is really a great waterfall to stop and visit. As a note, there are a number of waterfalls off of BC-99 (or within a few miles of BC-99), and they are all relatively easy to visit.

Directions:

  1. It is about 33 km north of Whistler or 2 miles south of Pembleton on BC-99.  If heading north, the parking will be on the right.  Signs indicate pretty clearly where the park is.
  2. After parking, start down the trail toward the falls.  It is about 1 mile one-way.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: 117′ (though you can’t see much of the drop)
Length of Hike: 2.0 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Nairn Falls?

Middle Falls of the Pigeon River, Minnesota/Ontario

The Pigeon River forms a portion of the border between Minnesota and Ontario. On the Minnesota side, you can visit Grand Portage State Park. The most popular (understandably) waterfall in Grand Portage State Park is the High Falls of the Pigeon River, which are very impressive. They are also easy to visit!

There are a number of other waterfalls on the Pigeon River, though, that don’t get nearly as much attention. If on the Minnesota side, it’s again understandable. One of the falls, Partridge Falls, is not necessarily easy to access because of rough road. Middle Falls, where there seems to be two different portions, can be accessed from the park entrance, though it requires a 2.5 mile hike one-way. This hike is by no means on flat ground, and it is steep at points, though by no means terrible. There is no simple boardwalk to the falls, though! Once you get there, you may be slightly disappointed, since High Falls is so much taller and more impressive. I would say the solitude you will experience at the Middle Falls would be a positive, but it was pretty quiet at the High Falls when I visited in mid-May.

As a side note, if you go to the Ontario side of the river, you will likely have a much easier time visiting these falls. From the Minnesota side, you can actually see the road that hugs the river, leading almost directly to the falls. So if you don’t want a workout, I would suggest that.

Directions (from Minnesota)

  1. Head north on MN-61 from Grand Portage to the entrance of Grand Portage State Park. You’ll see the border gate as you’re turning in.
  2. From the parking area, start along the trail toward High Falls. You should be heading west.
  3. Instead of heading toward High Falls, continue along the Middle Falls Trail. It is at least 1.6 miles one-way. Near the end of the trail, the trail splits (and creates a circle). The left fork in the trail leads you to the falls quicker, and I would even return from that direction. The right fork, adds a longer distance, and didn’t hold any interest for me.

Directions (from Ontario)

  1. On ON-61, find Route 593. Head west on Route 593, where after about 1 mile (maybe even less), you’ll pass a parking area on your LEFT. It’s really the only parking area, so turn in. If you’re unsure, there’s a sign in the parking area to indicate your near the falls.
  2. Walk along the old road upstream to the falls.

Accessibility: 3/10 (moderate/difficult, from Minnesota), 9/10 (easy, from Ontario)
Height: 15′
Hike: 5.0 mile hike round-trip (in Minnesota), 0.5 miles round-trip (in Ontario)

Middle Falls in May 2010 (from the Minnesota side)

Update: Alright, so I had a chance to visit Middle Falls when I was in the Thunder Bay area in late April 2012, and I can tell you, that for the most part, it is much easier to visit the Ontario side of the falls. The only difficulty is a minor one…There is no large sign indicating that you’re passing the parking area for the falls. I ended up passing the parking area, and turned around because I felt I had gone too far. I was correct in my hunch, as the parking area I saw was for the much shorter hike to the falls. On the Minnesota side, it’s a 3+ mile hike one-way…In Ontario, it’s about a 1/4 of a mile.  I also feel the views are somewhat better on the Ontario side.  For a while, I wasn’t even sure I was looking at the same waterfall.

Middle Falls in April 2012 (from the Ontario side)

 

Where in the World is Lower Middle Falls?