Whatcom County, Washington, United States
The two large lakes in the upper Bacon Creek drainage – Green Lake and Berdeen Lake – are situated at high elevations such that their outlets must drop over waterfalls of significant size in order to reach the floor of the valley. While the falls emanating form Green Lake are taller, Bacon Creek itself formally emerges from Berdeen Lake and is a larger stream. After it exits from Lower Berdeen Lake, Bacon Creek makes a sharp left-hand turn and plunges over the complex, multi-stepped Berdeen Falls. The uppermost tier is a narrow but nearly sheer plunge of some 325 feet (though potentially taller and possibly with some smaller tiers just above, though when surveyed from a distance we were not able to see any). At the base of the initial leap, the creek makes a sharp bend back to the right and commences a long sliding series of cascades where the creek drops another 200 feet. The cascades terminate immediately in the second major drop, a broad free-falling plunge of about 275 feet, and this is again followed by a series of steep cascades which drop another 100 feet, bringing the total drop of the falls to around 900 vertical feet.
Bacon Creek at this point in its course is significantly smaller than at its mouth (where it is essentially a river), however the stream is continuously fueled by multiple sources which allow the volume to remain consistent throughout the year. Berdeen Lake, about three-quarters of a mile upstream, is one of the largest alpine lakes in the state of Washington and often remains entirely frozen until August. Additionally, four modest glaciers on the east face of Hagan Mountain provide an ample inflow to the creek when (or if) the winter snowpack melts off. The falls are resoundingly more impressive in the early summer months, but flow well all year.
Due to the rugged terrain and fairly remote location Berdeen Falls is exceptionally difficult to access, let alone observe and this made it quite difficult for us to obtain much of the information needed to provide an accurate survey of the falls. Height figures and dimensional measurements presented in this survey report were obtained via both topographic map data and aerial images available on Google Earth and Bing Maps and should be considered approximate (though well within a reasonable representation of reality).
History and Naming
Berdeen Falls is the Unofficial name of this waterfall.
The upper Bacon Creek basin contains several outstanding waterfalls, and while Berdeen Falls doesn’t quite measure up to nearby Green Lake Falls (few waterfalls do), it isn’t far off. While it features a drop nearly as tall as Green Lake, and occurs along a stream which is consistently higher in volume, because Berdeen Falls is broken up in two distinct parts, and while the whole falls can be seen collectively from a distance there appears to be no way to see both of the big drops together from anywhere up close (if it even proves possible to get close to the falls, that is). For this reason Berdeen Falls can’t be considered quite as good as the raw data suggests it might be, but it’s still in the upper echelon of waterfalls in the United States and easily ranks in the Top 5 in the state of Washington.
The upper tier of Berdeen Falls faces south, while the remaining tiers all face west. Generally speaking the falls will be well illuminated by direct sunlight from the late morning until maybe 2 hours before sunset. From anywhere that the whole falls can be seen at least a mid-range zoom lens will be needed to frame a shot comprising of the whole falls, whereas isolating individual sections of the falls will require a fairly powerful telephoto. From close up (if it proves possible to get close) a wide angle lens will certainly be useful. Expect heavy spray up close as well.
Location & Directions
Coordinates: 48.70625, -121.48262 Elevation: 4399 feet USGS Map: Damnation Peak 7 1/2"
Berdeen Falls is located along Bacon Creek about one-quarter mile downstream from the outlet of Lower Berdeen Lake and two-thirds of a mile downstream of the outlet of Berdeen Lake in North Cascades National Park. There are no trails into the area and viewing the falls in any way will require at least two days of difficult cross-country hiking. The falls can be seen from pretty much anywhere on Bacon Peak, as well as from the basin near Bacon Lake, the ridgeline immediately east of Green Lake and the unnamed summit immediately northwest of Green Lake. The base of the falls should be accessible via a roughly five-mile long bushwhack from the Bacon Creek Road, however we anticipate this route to be difficult enough to require two days of travel itself due to the extremely thick brush lining the valley floor, as well as requiring fords of two large streams and possible cliff bands obstructing further progress up the valley. It may additionally be possible to descend a forested gully from Lower Berdeen Lake to the bottom of the upper tier of Berdeen Falls, however the terrain is quite steep and we did not have time to properly investigate the feasibility of such a route.View this location in Google Earth Berdeen Falls is marked with the large icon in the center of the map. Up to ten additional waterfalls (if any) may be marked as well, with links below.
Other Nearby Waterfalls
By The Numbers
The information presented in this table is meant to help identify and clarify the physical aspects of the waterfall for comparative purposes. While we try to ensure this information is as accurate as possible, sometimes it will prove necessary to either estimate or flat out guess at certain characteristics where either enough information isn't readily available, is not known, or we were not able to confirm a given trait upon surveying. This information may be changed at any given time to ensure accuracy.
The Total Height listed for the waterfall represents the difference in elevation from the top of the uppermost drop, to the bottom of the lowermost drop of the waterfall, including all stretches of interstitial stream in between. Stream between two tiers of a waterfall is counted in its overall height regardless of whether or not that section of the stream would be legitimately considered a waterfall on its own right, were it to be isolated. Waterfalls with only one drop will of have the height of only the single drop listed here.
The Tallest Drop figure represents the height of the largest single drop within a multi-stepped waterfall. Waterfalls with only one drop will have the total height of the waterfall repeated here.
Num of Drops
The Number of Drops in a waterfall is a tally of the total number of distinct drops which make up the waterfall. Stretches of interstitial stream in between two or more distinct drops of a single waterfall are NOT considered to be distinct drops of the waterfall unless the section of stream in question would otherwise qualify as a waterfall were it to be isolated.
The Average Width of the waterfall represents the breadth of the waterfall from bank to bank under typical flow conditions, or if the waterfall has been Cataloged, under the conditions which it was most thoroughly surveyed. Often this number will be approximated because of a lack of approachability to many waterfalls. We often utilize Google Earth to measure the width (where imagery is of sufficient quality and resolution to allow it.
Maximum Width represents a hypothetical measurement of roughly how wide a waterfall could get during peak streamflow or flood conditions. For smaller waterfalls, this figure will generally not differ much from the Average Width measurement, but for broader waterfalls - especially those that feature a crest that isn't constricted - this figure can at times be consideraby larger. Like the Average Width measurement, this measurement will take into account the difference in width at the top and bottom of the waterfall as much as possible, but will often be made based on the width of the crest of th falls alone.
The Pitch of a waterfall is an estimated - often very roughly - measure of the average slope or steepness of a waterfall. The Pitch figure only takes into account sections of stream which are actively falling. Pools or stretches of level stream in between two or more successive drops of the falls will not factor in this figure. As an example, a waterfall which features two truly free-falling leaps separated by several dozen yards of flat stream will have a Pitch of 90 degrees. Similarly, a waterfall with two drops separated by a pool, one with a true free-falling drop, and one with a Horsetail type fall will average the two, so while the Plunging drop has a Pitch of 90 degrees, if the Horsetail drop has a Pitch of 45 degrees, the total Pitch will be roughly 67 degrees.
The Run of a waterfall is a measurement representing the total linear distance on the ground between the top and bottom of a waterfall. This figure is not often easy to establish with a high degree of precision and as such will often be estimated. Waterfalls with a longer Run will usually either be less steep, often cascading type waterfalls, or will feature multiple steps separated by shorter stretches of a more gradual gradient streambed.
The system of classification of waterfall forms we use is a heavily modified derivative of the classifications outlined by Greg Plumb in his "Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest" books. While plumb uses eight distnct forms, we wanted further granularity and opted to break down the hierarchy twofold: first based on the overall pitch of the waterfall, and then based on what shape the fall takes as it makes its descent. There are five primary Categories of falls in this system: Plunge, Horsetail, Steep Cascades, Shallow Cascades, and Rapids. Additional deliniation is then applied depending on characteristics such as the breadth of the falls, whether it splits into two or more channels, whether it falls in multiple successive drops, etc. For more information on our waterfall form classifications, see the Help page.
The watershed which a waterfall occurs within, if it is specified, will be based on the ultimate distributary watercourse to the ocean. For example, Washington's Palouse Falls occurs along the Palouse River - which is a tributary to the Snake River, which is itself a tributary to the Columbia River, which ultimately enters the Pacific Ocean, so Palouse Falls would then fall within the Columbia River watershed. Streams which empty directly into the ocean, or into a minor basin which then empties to the ocean will often have this field left blank.
The name of the watercourse which the waterfall occurs along. If the watercourse is not known to have an officially or colloquially recognized name, this field is left blank.
The volume of water present in the stream at the location of the waterfall. This is often the most difficult figure to pin down because accurately measuring streamflow is not a simple process. We will rely on USGS data as much as possible, and attempt to take into account seasonal fluctuations in stream levels if possible. There is no guarantee that this figure will be accurate, and in cases where there is no USGS data to use, it may be a very, very rough estimate at best.
If known, the primary source of the watercourse which produces the waterfall will be listed here. This is helpful in determining whether a waterfall may flow more consistently during certain periods of the year - streams which originate in Springs, Lakes, or Glaciers will often flow more consistently throughout the year than those fueled by simply Runoff. The source of the stream may also be either unknown or undetermined.
A rough estimation of how many months out of the year the stream which produces the waterfall will actually hold water. The vast majority of waterfalls featured on this website will technically be truly perennial waterfalls (those that flow all year long), but some may see their flow dwindle greatly in the late summer months. This figure will not take into account the winter months when the waterfall may freeze, because in such cases the waterfall will very often be inaccessible. Entries which specify a Flow Consistncy of 12 Months should in general have an acceptable flow at any time of year (but may be better during certain periods - see below).
A general estimate of the best period of the year during which time the falls will be considered at optimal conditions, or flowing at their best. There may be variance within the range specified where the flow will be better or worse, but visiting at any time in the range specified (if available) will generally present the waterfall in its best light.Close
CatalogedWaterfalls which are Cataloged we have visited and surveyed in person. Statistical information should be quite accurate (for the most part), and exact measurements will often be available (information is not guaranteed to always be up to date). Detailed information, directions, and photographs will almost always be available.
ConfirmedConfirmed Waterfalls are known to exist, should be relatively accurately mapped and geotagged, and the statistical information available will often be dependable. If height information is presented, it may be estimated but should be accurate. Directions will not likely be available.
UnconfirmedUnconfirmed Waterfalls are often marked on a published map, but we have yet to confirm the exact location and / or whether or not its stature is significant enough to qualify for listing in the database. Statistical information may be estimated and may be inaccurate. No directions.
UnknownWaterfalls marked as Unknown are either suspected to exist based on heresay or a hunch, or we have received unverified information suggesting a waterfall may exist near the location provided but cannot corroborate it in any way. Geodata may not be accurate, the location may not be known at all, and statistical information will be estimated and highly inaccurate.
InundatedInundated Waterfalls have been submerged beneath lakes or reservoirs, usually a result of impoundment of a river behind a dam, and most often no longer functionally exist (there may be rare exceptions). We maintain records for these features out of historical importance.
SubterraneanThough not common, some waterfalls can be found entirely underground within cave systems. Access to subterranean waterfalls can vary from easy via developed walkways to requiring a high level of extremely technical spelunking skill, including familiarity with ropework and a distinct lack of claustrophobia.
DisqualifiedWaterfalls which have been marked as Disqualified do not have the necessary stature or features to qualify as a legitimate waterfall according to our criteria. We will maintain records for entries with this status where the feature is well known and / or may have been historically referred to as a waterfall at some point in time.
PostedPosted Waterfalls are known to exist, and we may have a large amount of information associated with them, but are located on private property and are not legally accessible to the general public. Accessing waterfalls with this status should not be attempted without first being explicitly granted permission of the property owner.