Monday, July 26, 2010
McCloud River Falls, Upper Middle & Lower - Shasta Trinity National Forest
Just east of McCloud in the Shasta Trinity National Forest there are 4 waterfalls. The 3 more know are the Upper, Middle & Lower McCloud Falls. A forth named Big Springs is also in the area but I didn't manage to make to that one, oh well got to leave something for next time. The easiest access to all 3 of the McCloud falls is located about 20 miles from I-5 on Hwy 89, or about 5 miles east of McCloud. Fowler Public Camp Rd is on the right, it is well marked and paved. There are two or three other roads from Hwy 89 but this paved and will take you to all 3. Once on Fowler Public Camp Rd stay straight for the lower falls or turn left on the unnamed paved road to head to the middle and upper falls.
If you are going to be in this area and you are in need of some outdoor gear or to arrange a guided trip, check out the newly (5/25/12) opened McCloud Outdoors & Gear Exchange.
From the top - To match the video I'll take you thorough it from the Upper Falls. The Upper Falls area has a few picnic tables next to a skinny, shallow and lazy McCloud river. But don't be fooled the awesome power of nature is just out of sight at this point. A path leads from the parking lot along the river, soon this listless creek is squeezed into a narrow slide like channel of volcanic irregularly shaped rocks causing swirling eddys in the river. (Be cautious if you climb over the protective railing to get your video and you're jumping around on these rocks, aside from the danger of being swept over the falls there are water filled holes in the volcanic rock that can be 3+ feet deep.) The water picks up speed in the slide and then falls about 25' to a beautiful clear blue-green pool. There is no easy way down to the bottom, you could make it but the climb back up will be challenging. If your looking to swim keep in mind you have two more easy to get to waterfall swimming holes just down the road. From the overlook there is a trail that will take you to .3 miles to the middle falls or about 1.5 miles to the lower, or you can drive to the respective parking lots.
Middle Falls - Middle Falls is the show. Now I'm sure there are people that will say they like the upper or the lower better for this reason or that but in my opinion the one to see is the middle. From the viewing point up above the falls you will see the river widen and streak with white as the water once again picks up speed in anticipation for the fall ahead. From this point you can't really get perspective of what exactly your looking at. The trail from the upper falls and the path from the middle parking lot meet up and descend to the base of the middle falls. As you wind your way to the base of the falls the noise of the water crashing gets gradually louder and louder. After 3 or 4 switch backs, there it is. The moment it comes into full view you will stop in your tracks and gaze in awe at the beauty of nature. Make your way across the slick rocks to the pool below the falls. From here jump in the pool, or just gaze up at the pounding 50' tall, 100' wide waterfall. Again the trail continues to the lower and so does the road.
Lower Falls - Leaving the middle falls the river once again becomes lackadaisical and you wonder, where did all the water go that you just saw pounding over the middle falls? Just before the lower falls the river once again narrows and then pours over and drops about 12'. I found this to be a great swimming hole. The water is clear and you can see any hazards in the water below. That's important if your planing on jumping into the pool below, at your own risk of course. Like the upper the lower has picnic tables and is a stroll from the parking lot.
The McCloud River Falls are no secret. Do not have the expectation of being alone with nature at any of these spots or even the ability to get clear shots of the falls without other people in them. That being said its worth checking out. Give yourself 2-3 hours to make your way around. If you choose to swim or jump use caution bring a friend and remember your pretty much out of cell range and emergency care is a ways out. So please use caution and have fun, come back and share your experience. Oh yeah I forgot to mention how during you exploration of this area you are in the presence of a 14,179' Mt Shasta giving you something else to gaze at with awe.
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View McCloud River Falls in a larger map
Location: McCloud-Medicine Lake, CA, USA