Coos County, New Hampshire, United States
Crystal Cascade is a gorgeous series of veiling falls and cascades along the Cutler River near the summit of Pinkham Notch in the White Mountains. The falls are found along the immensely popular Tuckerman Ravine trail and will often rightfully serve as a distraction to hikers starting out on the trail - visitors seeking out the falls specifically should not expect to be alone.
Though the falls visible from the overlook on the trail appear to have two - or three if you look hard - distinct steps, the cascades actually extend upstream for some distance, and consist of at least six distinct tiers in all, which cumulatively drop approximately 160 feet in a run of about 500 linear feet. We surveyed the falls in entirety in 2015 but in the time since our data seems to have been misplaced, so exact measurements for the top four tiers of the falls is only approximate at this time. The portion of the falls visible from the trail consists of a barely visible approximately 25-foot tall plunging fall which descends into a narrow basin, followed by the two prominent leaps that are seen from the overlook; an incredibly scenic 64-foot veiling fall, followed by a 23-foot plunge which splits into two separate channels when the flow of the Cutler River is lower. The upper 9 feet of the 64-foot tier may at first glance appear to be a distinct tier of its own, however the fall transitions immediately to the remaining bulk of the drop without pausing, so it should be effectively considered one drop.
The three uppermost tiers of the falls cannot be seen from the trail, and consist of back-to-back-to-back steps of approximately 15, 20, and 10 feet respectively, each featuring a fairly large pool at its base which separates it from the next drop by 50-75 linear feet. Below the final 23-foot plunging tier of Crystal Cascades the river rumbles through a narrow gorge and is then spit out just upstream from the first footbridge encountered along the trail. A small set of cascades which drop about 10 feet in all can be found just downstream of this bridge en route to Crystal Cascade.
The Cutler River upstream of Crystal Cascade drains from an area of approximately 3 square miles on the east flank of Mount Washington, including the heavily incised Huntington and Tuckerman Ravines which retain significant winter snow pack well into the spring and early summer months. The fact that Mount Washington so readily produces its own weather, as well as the heavy winter snow fall which the area receives ensures that there is almost always an ample volume of water flowing down the river at Crystal Cascades, and they will present well at any time of year.
History and Naming
Crystal Cascade is the Official name of this waterfall.
While it isn't among the tallest waterfalls in New Hampshire, Crystal Cascade has an undeniable allure and charm that many other falls in the state don't have. In addition to being exceptionally scenic and photogenic, the falls are also known to exhibit a fair amount of Oomph during the melt season, which makes this one of the more impressive waterfalls in the White Mountains. Given the easy access, this is one not to miss.
Crystal Cascade is one of the most photogenic waterfalls in New Hampshire, however due to the shape and constriction of the gorge at the falls, there are only so many options when composing a shot of the falls. The stone-walled viewpoint offers the most revealing vista of the falls, but it isn't a terribly dynamic composition. It is also possible to scramble down to a ledge immediately in front of the lower tier of the falls, but the upper tier becomes hidden from view (and spray can be a problem during heavier flow periods as well). The falls face southeast and will see partially direct sunlight in the morning hours, while even shaded light will be encountered from the mid to late afternoon onward.
Location & Directions
Coordinates: 44.2609, -71.2573 Elevation: 0 feet USGS Map: Mount Washington 7 1/2"
Take Route 16 to Pinkham Notch and park at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center at the summit. Follow the well signed Tuckerman Ravine Trail beginning adjacent to the AMC lodge for one-third of a mile to the walled viewpoint overlooking the falls, about 500 feet beyond the footbridge spanning the Cutler River.View this location in Google Earth
Other Nearby Waterfalls
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.