Some Waterfalls In Crater Lake National Park
By John Eliot Allen, Ranger-Naturalist
Early in the season, when the snowdrifts still feed the innumerable small streams that at that time flow down the crater wall and the outer slopes of the mountain and augment the larger permanent streams, waterfalls of varying degrees of volume, height and loveliness may be seen at hundreds of places within the Park. A few of the most accessible and noteworthy of these were visited during the first two weeks in July, and the following discussion is designed to give the reader an idea of their characteristics, peculiar beauties, and origin.
Vidae Falls, perhaps the loveliest and most accessible within the Park, may be seen from the east entrance road near the point where it crosses Sun Creek, about three miles from Government Headquarters. An easy trail also zigzags up the hill to a nearer viewpoint overlooking them. The two-hundred-foot cascade, cradled in a notch out in the grey cliff of lava, is edged with the brilliant green of the ever-moist vegetation, and overlooks a meadow and swale thronged with dog-tooth lily (Erythronium) and forget-me-not (Lappula florabunda) The cliff itself is covered with a variety of wildflowers, the bleeding hearts (Dicentra formosa), huckleberry bells (Vaccinium caespitosum), false solomon seal (Smilosina amplexicaulus), columbine (Aquilegia formosa), rock penstemon (Penstemon rupicola), service blooms (Amerlanchier florida), sulphur flower (Eriogonum umbellatum), and paint brush (Castelleja appelgatei), all being prominently displayed. For a hundred feet above the top of the main falls the stream flows steeply down in a narrow chute bordered with a thick mat of various mosses, still further above the valley levels and flattens out as a bench on the west side of the main Sun Valley. This upper valley is of interest in considering the origin of the falls. The stream therein originally must have joined Sun Creek at its own level (I) and Sun glacier, filling the valley (II) cut the cliff that resulted in the falls, (III). Since Sun Glacier must in order to cut the valley that is now present, at some time have covered the site of the falls with five hundred feet of ice, this must either have been during a very low stage of the ice stream, perhaps the last stage, or it is also possible that a more resistant ledge of lava may have been in part or wholly responsible for the level area and the falls.
Two other falls in Sun Creek itself may be seen further down the valley. Scarcely a quarter of a mile below the road, the stream, which is at this time of the year a sizable torrent, drops over a mossy ledge for perhaps twenty feet, the angular blocky face of the rock breaking into a hundred jets. Half a mile further down there is another steep drop in the stream bed, and in two hundred yards the creek falls over three hundred foot in a series of cascades.
A forty foot cascade may be found half a mile up the creek from the west end of the Government Camp mess hall. Immediately above these falls the southward-flowing stream is nearly choked with peaty sod, and for a hundred yards it repeatedly disappears below this springy mat and then boils up again a few feet further on. A few minutes inspection shows that the stream above the falls is bounded on the west by the wall of Munson Valley, which here is a high lava cliff, and on the east by a lower bouldery ridge parallel to the valley wall, which comes to an end at the falls and which is interpreted as an upper lateral moraine of Munson glacier. The water cascade over a minor lava ledge perhaps fifty feet high which juts out upstream from the lava cliff at an acute angle, the outer and being covered by the glacial deposit, thus effectually damming the stream and causing the level area above the falls. Below the falls the stream turns eastward around the end of the upper moraine over the surface of a lower and probably older deposit of a similar nature.
These falls are interesting in comparison to Vidae Falls, since they are both on the west side of south trending glacial valleys, but are of different origin.
Dewie Falls, at the head of Godfrey's Glen, may be easily reached by the road that turns off at the east end of the bridge, just a mile above the Annie Spring junction. These cascades drop over a hundred feet into the glen, after flowing for a quarter of a mile through a narrow twenty-foot gorge, cut fifty feet down into the agglomerate rock of the area. The falls are thus unapproachable from above, and only with difficulty may they be closely approached by climbing up from the Glen, but a short trail has been built which leads down from the road to a viewpoint high above them. Dewie Falls are unique in their setting, lying deep in a gorge with walls made up of giant columns of agglomerate, and though their greatest single drop is perhaps only twenty feet, they fall a total of over five times that far. They are the result of varying resistance to wear of the rock layers, as the stream cuts its way down through the volcanic material.
A small falls, probably intermittent, but nevertheless noteworthy, is located two hundred yards north of a bend in the east entrance road just one mile from Government Headquarters. It is of particular interest in that it slides down over a smooth dipping surface of a peculiarly platy lava (andesite). The water cascades over this slope for twenty-five feet before taking a fifteen-foot final drop.
Water falls within the rim of the lake are of comparatively small volume, and with only a few exceptions are intermittent in nature, depending upon small snow-fields for their supply. They exceed all other falls in the Park in height, however, and the delicate filaments of a few of them as seen from the lake present a lovely sight. Those noted during the first week of July are listed as follows:
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