Utah’s Best and Most Unique WaterfallsPosted by Bryan Swan | December 27th, 2011
Some states or countries might not be quite as well endowed when it comes to waterfalls as the regions which we posted at the time of launch. In cases like this – such as with the state of Utah – we’re going to do a condensed post outlining both the best and most unique waterfalls at the same time because there may not necessarily be enough waterfalls to fill up a more extensive version of each list on its respective own.
Utah’s 5 Most Unique Waterfalls
If you’ve been following our “Most Unique” series, you’ll undoubtedly be aware that waterfalls which feature arches or natural bridges are sure bets to make the list. Doughnut Falls is Utah’s obligatory participant in this category. Though the falls drop no more than about 25 feet, the incorporation of the arch is unique – rather than spanning across the face of the falls, the stream plunges into a pothole which has punched straight through the undercut cliff into the alcove below. The result allows for visitors to stair straight up through the skylight while the water falls in the opposite direction.
Zion National Park is rather famously known for its spectacular scenery, but not so much for its waterfalls – largely because the waterfalls are short lived. But when flowing there are several noteworthy and unique which could qualify for this article. We chose Sinawava Falls because of its seemingly ethereal origins. The stream in Telephone Canyon – when it flows – is squeezed out of a slot canyon perhaps 2 feet wide at most, from which it explodes into a 600-foot tall plume of mist to meet the Virgin River on the floor of the canyon. That the falls typically flow at their most violent immediately after a passing thunderstorm adds further to the fleetingly fascinating nature of the falls.
Water Canyon Falls
This waterfall isn’t really unique on its own, but among Utah’s modest offerings it holds one distinct characteristic which is uncommon: this is a waterfall which flows all year long while being situated in the heart of canyon country, or more specifically in Bryce Canyon itself. Water Canyon Falls only drops about 20 feet, but feature very interesting geology (as does pretty much all of Bryce Canyon. Hoodoos line the sides of Water Canyon above the falls and the slightly blue-tinted small stream meanders along in a copper-hued wash that creates a very colorful scene.
Ogden Canyon Falls
The well-known falls in Ogden Canyon are included here because for better or worse they are not naturally occurring. Water diverted from the Ogden River at the Pineview Dam several miles upstream is channeled into the Ogden Canyon Conduit, which in turn fuels several aqueducts which distribute to various municipal water supplies. Just before the mouth of the canyon where the canal is split to distribute to the north and south, a wasteway channel was constructed, which allows excess water to spill back into the Ogden River, forming a rather impressive waterfall on the order of 300 feet in height. Because the falls will effectively be regulated by how much water is being drawn off in the canal, the falls can turn off or on in an instant.
While the modest size of Cascade Falls – a clean plunge of maybe 10-15 feet at most – isn’t going to impress anyone, the nature of the falls will certainly turn heads. Cascade Falls is the natural outlet of Navajo Lake, found about a mile and a half to the northwest, but it’s a subterranean outlet. Cascade Falls marks the emergence of the stream from the underground channel, plunging directly out of the cave and beginning the North Fork of the Virgin River.
Utah’s 5 Best Waterfalls
The aptly named Waterfall Canyon just outside of Ogden harbors a surprisingly impressive cataract despite its small drainage area and relatively dry climate. Malan Falls veils a good 200 feet down from a narrow hanging valley, and though the falls certainly suffer from the lack of precipitation in the summer months, during the spring the volume of water launching into the impressive amphitheater can be quite impressive.
Mount Timpanogos harbors some of Utah’s best waterfalls. As the North Fork of the Provo River cascades out of Primrose Cirque, it cascades over a series of as many as nine distinct waterfalls. While at the time our Utah data was posted we only have one distinctly inventoried, the high concentration of significant waterfalls (all likely over 50 feet in height, if not substantially more) in this area is quite worthy of attention in a state as (relatively) deficient in waterfalls as Utah.
While not swamped with the crowds seen in some other parts Utah’s canyon lands, Lower Calf Creek Falls is a scene that is synonymous with the desert southwest. Plunging 126 feet over a cathedral sandstone cliff stained with lichen, Lower Calf Creek Falls is an ethereal, impressive and exceptionally photogenic waterfall. Though not terribly tall even by Utah standards, the falls are exceptional in their consistency and resilience amid the arid climate and create an eagerly welcomed oasis for hikers venturing into the canyon.
The other set of impressive waterfalls on the east side of Mount Timpanogos is found in Stewarts Cascades, a booming 300 foot tall set of falls situated behind the Sundance ski area. While the falls are composed of five distinct steps, it’s the bottom two drops which are most eye-catching. The lowermost tier isn’t terribly significant, but coupled with the broad, veiling, nearly 200-foot tall fourth tier the stair-step combination is exceptionally scenic, and in the early summer very powerful as well.
Certainly the most well-known waterfall in Utah, Provo Canyon’s Bridal Veil Falls is also the state’s most impressive fall and is said to be the tallest as well (though this remains to be tested). Falling a reported 607 feet in two (possibly three) eye-catching, veil styled steps the falls are an instant attention grabber for motorists traveling through the canyon.