January 6 (1978, 2002)
Discovering the Canyon Creek Waterfalls

"1/6/78   ...yesterday and the night before was a period of steady rain that turned rivulets into rivers, and closed highway 80. this morning only occasional showers, and the fog lies thick and deep in the canyon... the clouds above are unbroken and are decked out at about 4000' elev. the standard pattern after rain. just a shade too warm for snow down here, once again. ah... the clouds above are taking on a rosy hue. they are not as thick as they look. today would be a good day to check out the canyon creek waterfalls. neil may stop by later.

~night. stopped off at neil's and ended up going out with a whole crowd: neil, dana, gary, and peggine. neil and i soon detached ourselves and had a great ramble down canyon creek to the falls. dana and gary and peggine were moving too slowly to reach them before sunset, so neil and i opted for waterfalls. and they are nice. an old trail goes down to the river along canyon creek, and we found a quick and easy route to the waterfalls. we may return tomorrow if the sun shines, there should be rainbows. neil and i visited only the uppermost fall; there may be larger ones further down. it was about twenty five feet."

[Russell Towle's journal]

Below are Russell's photos of the top reach of these "uppermost falls" on Canyon Creek, taken January 6, 2002, exactly 24 years after the above journal entry.

Sighting down the course of Canyon Creek, across the right angle bend at the first of the waterfalls.
The sunlit crest of the southern end of the "Diving Board" ridge (see January 4 post) can be seen in the upper right.
This was a very different year—a dry period—and carved out whorls of granite in the bedrock at the top of the falls are exposed to view, the furthest channel at this time containing nearly all the flow that typically in midwinter is obscuring all of that rock.

Here's a straight-on view of these upper falls taken from across the gorge. Called the "Leaping Fall" because of the way the water would shoot out away from the rock at the top during high flows.

Leaping Falls in a dry winter, Canyon Creek, a tributary to the North Fork of the American River.
January 6, 2002

(Click to enlarge)


  1. The first two photos show what Russell called the Leaper. The Leaper takes a little bit of a storm runoff to get going and can be seen when viewing the falls from the side as you walk by on the trail. The lower photo is the head on view of the falls and the leaper cannot be seen as it is hidden in a small alcove on the left.
    One of the things I really liked was that Russell had come across an old photo (probably from Golden Drift Historical Society) of the falls showing the sluice boxes (undercurrents) that were once located there when Canyon Creek operated as a tailings claim.

  2. Thanks for the clarification about the "Leaper", Ron. I hope others will jump in with comments, questions, memories.

    Yes, the photo comparison between then and now... There is a heap of material in Russell's files about the history of mining in Canyon Creek, including that photo you mention, and you will see the photos together, along with Russ's discourse, on a future date.