British Columbia, Canada
Cerberus Falls is an absolute colossus of a waterfall situated at the head of spectacular Icefall Canyon, deep in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The falls occur as Icefall Brook emerges from its source in the Southwest Lyell Glacier and hurtles over the edge of the glacially scoured trough. Depending on the daily temperature and the time of year, there can be anywhere from two to four main streams of water pouring over the canyon and forming the falls. The standard display consists of three segments grouped closely together, with a fourth major segment located a short distance to the southwest.
The Southwest Lyell Glacier covers and area of about 20 square kilometers, nearly all of which drains into Icefall Brook - which itself really should be titled as a river. Approximately 75% of the melt water flowing from the glacier falls over the three primary channels of the falls, plunging 1,558 feet at the apex of the canyon, with each segment behiving a little differently. The southern-most of the three plunges in three massive steps, each falling in seemingly slow motion, exploding in a cloud of mist upon impacting the rock below each plunge. The middle segment plunges then skips down the remaining cliff in one long horsetail, while the north segment plunges into a narrow slot and remains hidden from view from all but a straight-on view of the falls before emerging as a veiling horsetail at the base of the formation.
In addition to the main falls, a large melt stream emerges even higher up the canyon wall to the southwest of the main fall and may drop closer to 1700 feet in all. Upstream of the main drop of this 1700 foot segment lies another significant step of about 700 additional feet. Because the initial survey of Cerberus Falls did not yield acceptable views of the majority of this part of the falls, we can't say whether this should be considered a separate waterfall or not. Should it turn out to qualify as two steps of the same drop, Cerberus Falls would then become the most significant waterfall of over 2000 feet in height in Canada.
What makes Cerberus Falls truly stand out from other waterfalls of similar size in Canada is the volume of water involved. On an average summer day the Lyell Glacier can send as much as 400-600 cubic feet of water flowing over the falls every second. However, on days when the temperature pushes 90° F, the volume of water can swell to closer to 1000 cubic feet per second.
History and Naming
Cerberus Falls is the Proposed name of this waterfall.
Has also been known as:
- Icefall Brook Falls
Though this waterfall has been infrequently known as Icefall Brook Falls or Icefall Falls, we wanted to propose a name more fitting of its utter grandiosity. In keeping with our Greek Mythology theme for the other falls in the canyon, we have suggested it be called after Cerberus, the giant three-headed beast which guards the gates of Hades. While considering the icy plains above the falls akin to Hades may be a stretch, the wild, untamed three-segmented nature of the falls more than justified the comparison in our minds.
Upon seeing the first glimpses of this waterfall, we had no doubt in our minds that it would be among the best in North America. What we couldn't comprehend until we reached the base of the falls, however, was just how much water is involved. Any waterfall of over 1500 feet in height will be impressive, regardless of how much or how little water is involved, but with as much as 1000 cfs flowing over the massive amphitheater walls of Icefall Canyon, there was little left to argue. Cerberus Falls is hands down the best waterfall in British Columbia and stands behind only Virginia Falls as the best in all of Canada.
Location & Directions
Coordinates: Unknown Elevation: 5950 feet
Turn off the Trans-Canada Highway on Donald Road (signed for the town of Donald), then after a kilometer, turn left onto the Bush River FSR. Follow the Bush River Road for 63km then turn right onto the Valenciennes River FSR shortly after crossing the Valenciennes River. Follow the Valenciennes Road for 18km then bear left onto the Mons Creek - Icefall FSR and follow it for another 9km to where a small sign can be seen indicating the parking for Icefall Lodge. As of August 2010, Mons Creek had washed out the road 1/2km before the parking. From the parking area, find the trail across the flood plain to Icefall Brook (faint) and locate the log footbridge to cross (do not attempt crossing by fording, the creek is too large and swift). Once across, follow the trail (may be flagged) for about 120m to where the trail bears left on an old roadbed. The Icefall Canyon trail (unmarked) heads right along the same former road at this point. Follow the rough, generally overgrown trail towards Icefall Canyon to where it peters out after about 1 1/2 to 2km. From this point it's a rough bushwhack through thick hemlock forest and across bouldery outwash plains. The river limits travel upstream to approximately 4km from the trailhead once nearing the base of the falls. The Icefall Canyon trail is a rough, very much work-in-progress trail which may be difficult to follow at times and should not be attempted by those looking for an easy walk. The falls can also be distantly seen from the Mons Creek FSR about 5km past the trailhead, but due to the washout of the Mons Creek bridge, this may not be drivable.
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.