World Waterfall Database
Book Review

Definitive Guide to the Waterfalls of Southern and Central California, The

Shaffer, Chris (author)

Shafdog Publications, 2003
Edition 1
Format Paperback
Print Style Full Color
Book Type Guidebook
Page Count 416
ISBN 0-9712814-2-4
In Print? Yes
Picture quality (3)
Picture Quantity (5)
Accuracy of Content (3)
Thoroughness of Content (4)
Production Value (3)

Reviewed by Bryan Swan

Up until 2003 there had been only one book written on the subject of Waterfalls in the state of California, and though it did a good job with what it covered, it really just scratched the surface. Cue author Chris Shaffer and his book A Definitive Guide to the Waterfalls of Southern and Central California. Now, this book is hardly a definitive guide (for a state as big as California that would take several volumes), but it did elevate the game to the next level.

Shaffer's book covers 265 waterfalls in California from Sonora Pass and the Bay Area south. About half of these are located in the Sierra Nevada and the other half are scattered among the coastal ranges between the Bay and Los Angeles. The majority of the falls found west of the San Joaquin Valley have been discussed in Ann Marie Brown's "California Waterfalls", though there are a few that Shaffer has found and written about as a first. But where he has done his homework is in the Sierra Nevada. Shaffer has sought out a good 20-30 waterfalls from Yosemite National Park south to the edge of the Sequoia National Forest that haven't been discussed in California Waterfalls or any other (major) source that we are aware of, and for that he gets his due. Shaffer is the first author to write about the waterfalls in Yosemite's Tenaya Canyon (which includes Snow Creek Falls), among others. Discussing each entry, he dedicates ample page space to providing detailed directions - though he often ambles off on loosely related tangents and infuses personal anecdotes accompanied by photos of his friends fairly often.

Which brings us to the pictures. Shaffer is fairly liberal with his photographs in this book, and they are all presented in color. However, the quality of the photographs is definitely something to be desired. Some suffer from focus problems (or perhaps bad scans), some appear to have been taken with old digital cameras that apply very liberal noise reduction which results in ugly mosaic patterns, some have been enlarged well beyond their capacity, etc. In all, I applaud Shaffer for his desire to include lots and lots of photos, but in this case, quality does begin to trump quantity.

Lastly the book itself, as far as its build and production quality, is somewhat amateurish. Shaffer self publishes his work (at least this particular one) and from a design and editorial standpoint, this is plainly obvious. There are lots of typos, the size of the font randomly changes in the middle of a paragraph in a few places. The chapter organization is not terribly logical and the maps are not helpful at all. The print quality is good, however and though the paper is thinner than most books, it has thus far held up in the field fairly well. Furthermore, the information is not always accurate. Some information that should be firmly rooted in specifics can be annoyingly vague, such as distances, directions, and landmarks.

All in all, any waterfall hunters in California should include this one in their library if for no other reason than it has plenty of content that California Waterfalls doesn't have. Yes, it could have been done better and yes it could have been more complete, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good start. Most of these sort of projects take time to evolve into their optimal form and I think given another edition or two, this book could catapult from Very Good to Excellent.

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