World Waterfall Database

Green Lake Falls

Whatcom County, Washington, United States

Status: Cataloged
This waterfall has been surveyed by members of the World Waterfall Database.

Detailed Info

Green Lake Falls is the largest waterfall in the Bacon Creek basin and one of the largest waterfalls in the state of Washington. The falls occur as Green Lake’s outlet stream rolls over the side of the glacially carved upper valley of Bacon Creek and veils, cascades and plunges around 980 feet. The drop begins with a broad, steep sliding veil type horsetail fall where the creek runs across slightly channeled granite. A portion of the creek is diverted into a distinct channel which features a powerful roostertail at its immediate top, with the majority of the creek sliding down the main channel. This drop measures approximately 320 feet in height and about 120 feet wide. At the base of the veiling drop, the creek immediately reverts to a more gradual set of cascades without pause, accounting for another 200 or so feet in elevation, before spreading out across a broad shelf and dropping over the second substantial part of the falls, a roughly 460-foot tall sheer plunge-into-horsetail style drop, which consistently stretches 200-feet wide, and during high water periods can span as much as 360 feet in width due to multiple additional channels forming.
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<br />The stream along which Green Lake Falls occurs is a significant but unnamed branch of Bacon Creek which heads in the Green Lake Glacier on Bacon Peak. The basin which the falls drain lies at elevations at or above 4200 feet above sea level and receives heavy snow fall during the winter months. Coupled with the substantial size of the glacier and Green Lake itself, the volume of water which can be present in the stream during the peak of melt season can be considerable, and this helps to solidify Green Lake Falls as one of the most significant waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest, if not the United States. Like most streams in the northwest, during the late summer months the volume of water in the falls will drop considerably from its peak spring and early summer flows, but the presence of the glacier and lakes ensure that the falls retain a consistently moderate to above moderate flow throughout the year.
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<br />Due to the rugged terrain and fairly remote location Green Lake 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

Green Lake Falls is the Unofficial name of this waterfall.

Our Thoughts

Without being able to approach Green Lake Falls closely it remains difficult to truly appreciate just how immense this waterfall is. When we were able to partially survey the falls in September 2012, we were only afforded side views of the falls from a distance of over a mile away, and were foiled from getting closer views by the rugged terrain of the upper Bacon Creek valley. Even from that far away the falls stand out against the massive scale of the landscape, but without being able to approach the base of the falls there is little tangible connection to just how big and powerful the falls are. We hope to make our way to the base of the falls eventually to experience what is unquestionably one of the best waterfalls in North America up close.

Photo Tips

The falls face east and will see direct sunlight for the first half of the day. Because the falls are located deep within the valley, expect the whole drop to be in the shade by mid afternoon hours (this may make photography from the base of the falls difficult considering the likelihood of an epic volume of spray). From the distant, cross valley views a telephoto lens of 200-300mm is needed to achieve a well framed shot.

Location & Directions

Coordinates:   48.69271, -121.49285
Elevation:   3897 feet
USGS Map:   Damnation Peak 7 1/2"

Green Lake Falls is located about one-third of a mile downstream from the outlet of Green Lake in North Cascades National Park. There are no trails into the area and viewing the falls in any way will likely require at least two days (or more) of difficult cross-country hiking. The falls are visible from the ridge south of Hagan Mountain in the vicinity of Upper Nert Lake (unnamed on the topo maps), from the ridge line immediately south of Lower Berdeen Lake around the 4900 foot level, and most likely from the ridge extending southwest from the summit of Interloper Peak (also unnamed on maps). The base of the falls should be accessible via a roughly four and a half-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.

View this location in Google Earth
Green Lake 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

Additional Waterfalls which occur within 5 miles of Green Lake Falls
No additional waterfalls were found within 5 miles.

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.

Total Height

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.

Tallest Drop

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.

Avg Width

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

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.

Avg Volume

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.

Flow Consistency

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).

Best Flow

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.



Cataloged Icon
Waterfalls 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.
Confirmed Icon
Confirmed 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.
Unconfirmed Icon
Unconfirmed 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.
Unknown Icon
Waterfalls 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.
Inundated Icon
Inundated 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.
Subterranean Icon
Though 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.
Disqualified Icon
Waterfalls 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.
Posted Icon
Posted 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.

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