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Helmcken Falls
   British Columbia, Canada

This waterfall has been surveyed, mapped and measured in person by the World Waterfall Database.
Photo of Helmcken Falls Helmcken Falls is the centerpiece to Wells Gray Provincial Park, one of the most powerful waterfalls on earth and one of BC’s prime tourist draws. The Murtle River, which just a few kilometers upstream, drops over 300 foot wide Dawson Falls, narrows to about 75 feet wide and surges over the lip of Helmcken Canyon, hurtling 462 feet into one of the largest river-sculpted amphitheaters in North America. The bowl behind the falls recedes over 150 feet into the cliff and stretches over 500 feet wide. Just downstream lies a 50 foot lower tier which isn’t usually counted in the total height of the falls, but legitimately boosts this to a 500 foot tall waterfall. Pictures really do not do this waterfall justice, as there is no way to convey the true power and volume of water spilling off the cliff.

Even when viewed in person, because the viewpoint is rather distant from the falls, there is a really poor sense of scale, but when compared to the amount of water flowing over Dawson Falls upstream, the power of this waterfall becomes absolutely staggering. So much spray is ejected into the air that in the winter, a 200 foot tall cone of ice builds up at the base of the falls, and in the summer, spray can reach the rim of the canyon under the proper conditions.


  • Helmcken Falls is the Official name of this waterfall

Helmcken Falls was discovered by a Canadian Government land surveyor by the name of Robert Lee in July of 1913. He proposed the falls and river be named after the then Premiere of British Columbia, Sir Richard McBride. McBride was flattered but refused the honor, instead suggesting it be named for Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken who was active in the early governance of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.

In the 1950s and 1960s several plans to construct dams along the Clearwater and Murtle Rivers were put into play, fortunately none of which came to fruition before Wells Gray Provincial Park would be fully protected from development in 1973. Had the dams been built, Hemlcken Falls would have been largely submerged by waters behind a 137 meter dam.

Our thoughts

Usually blanket statements don’t really serve well to emphasize the awe a given waterfall may exude. However Helmcken Falls may be an exception to that rule. Simply put, Helmcken Falls is unquestionably one of the best waterfalls in all of North America.

Location and directions

Helmcken Falls is located in the heart of the Clearwater Corridor section of Wells Gray Provincial Park. Take the Clearwater Valley Road 42 kilometers north from the Yellowhead Highway in Clearwater, then turn left at the signs for the falls and follow 4 kilometers to the end of the road.

Helmcken 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
Cougar Falls 0.17 mi / 0.27 km
Mushbowl, The 2.16 mi / 3.45 km
Dawson Falls 2.45 mi / 3.92 km
Goodwin Falls 2.69 mi / 4.3 km
Sylvia Falls 2.71 mi / 4.34 km


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