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Depot Creek Falls
   Whatcom County, Washington, United States

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This waterfall has been surveyed, mapped and measured in person by the World Waterfall Database.
Photo of Depot Creek Falls The main waterfall of Depot Creek is one of the true juggernaut waterfalls in North America and by some standards might be one of the 100 best waterfalls on the planet. Depot Creek heads in three large glaciers on the north face of Mount Redoubt - itself one of the tallest mountains in Washington. The melt from the glaciers converge into what can resemble a modest river under hot enough conditions and hurtles, skips, slides and veils 948 feet over a huge glacially carved headwall in the valley. Puritanically thinking, Depot Creek might not be considered a noteworthy waterfall because most of the waterfall skips and slides down the rock, rather than falling vertically, but seeing this waterfall in person would easily dispel any such arguments. The falls begin by plunging 248 feet off the lip of the valley into a narrow shaded crevice. Immediately upon exiting the confines of the crack in the bedrock, the stream turns 70 degrees to the left and begins a long, steep horsetailing slide for a further 626 vertical feet, followed then by a final plunging drop of 72 feet. This all occurs over a run of about 1600 feet in length, but despite the great distance involved in the drop, the falls are quite a bit steeper - averaging a 70 degree pitch in most areas - than the overall profile may otherwise suggest. At many points during the drop, the creek impacts the bedrock at such angles that huge roostertails can be seen exploding into the air, accompanied by clouds of mist as the water pounds its way down the mountainside. Unfortunately due to the twisting shape of the falls, there is no way to see the entire waterfall from the ground, though each section can be approached individually. Furthering the somewhat restricted views, because the falls slide down the mountainside at a less than vertical angle, much of the falls are obscured by foreshortening when viewed up close.

HISTORY AND NAMES


  • Depot Creek Falls is the Unofficial name of this waterfall

Depot Creek was named for the presence of an old trading outpost near its mouth. The falls, to the best of my knowledge, have never been named, even unofficially. I really feel that Depot Creek Falls is too bland of a name for such a grand waterfall, and I would like to apply a more fitting title, so don't be surprised if one day, the name has changed.

Location and directions


Depot Creek Falls is located roughly a mile due north of Mount Redoubt in North Cascades National Park and can only be accessed via a seldom maintained climbers trail which starts near Chilliwack Lake in British Columbia. The access roads leading to the trailhead are extremely rough and require 4wd to pass. To reach the trailead, take Canada Highway 1 to Chilliwack, BC, exit at Vedder Road and turn south. Go 3.3 miles to a blinking light before crossing the Chilliwack River and turn left onto the Chilliwack River Road. Follow Chilliwack Road for 25 miles to where the pavement ends at Chilliwack Lake. At this point the Chilliwack Lake FSR - which can only be described as a pothole breeding ground - takes over and follows the lakeshore. From here on out, 4wd is recommended but 2wd vehicles could make it if going very slow. Drive another 6 1/2 miles, bearing right at the junction at 4 3/4 miles before crossing the twin Paleface Creek bridges, then bear left on an unmarked road (the Depot Creek FSR). Lower clearance vehicles will need to park here, 4wd vehicles can proceed as much as 2 miles further depending on the condition of the road, to where a permanent washout has reverted it to a trail. From here, follow the old road (sometimes with a stream running down it) for 1 3/4 miles (head left and uphill after about a quarter mile) to the US / Canada border. Once in Washington, the Depot Creek Trail takes over. Sign the trail register and then follow the trail - which can be difficult in places - for another 3 1/2 miles to the bottom of the falls. The National Park Service doesn't maintain the Depot Creek Trail more than once every decade, if that, so expect lots of windfallen trees and overgrown brush. When you near the base of the falls, you'll have to ford the Custer Fork of Depot Creek and climb up an 8 foot rock, with aid of a rope, to reach vistas of the falls. The path to the top of the falls heads up the rock to the left of the falls, then punches through the slide growth and climbs up a talus field. Please note, the sign at the trail register at the border states that you're supposed to let customs officials know you plan on re-crossing into the US if you hike this trail.

Depot Creek Falls is shown in the center. Additional nearby waterfalls (if any) can be found in the list below.

Additional Nearby Waterfalls


Name of Waterfall Distance
Depot Valley Falls 0.24 mi / 0.39 km
Lake Fork Falls 0.72 mi / 1.15 km
Spickard Falls 2.89 mi / 4.63 km
Silver Lake Falls 2.93 mi / 4.69 km
Bear Lake Falls 2.99 mi / 4.79 km

 

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Photography tips


Depot Creek Falls is a very difficult waterfall to properly photograph from the ground. A wide angle lens is necessary for several compositions and a modest zoom for others. The best overview of the falls can be seen before approaching the Custer Fork of Depot Creek at the base of Depot Creek Falls, looking over the low avalanche scrub a short distance off the trail. The falls face northwest and are best lit later in the afternoon and actually look best in sunlight, but there are some compositions where looking almost right into the sun can't be avoided. Slow shutter studies could work well here, but there is just such an immense volume of water coming down the falls that it doesn't do justice to the power exuded by the creek. Spray is a big issue at many of the viewpoints - especially at the bottom and below the uppermost part of the falls.

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